Here's a short quote from early in the book, when Richardson was just being introduced to the lions at the Lion Park:
...We came to another enclosure containing two older cubs. At 6 or 7 months, they had reached an age where they could no longer be petted by visitors to the park, and they were big--much bigger than I had expected. One was called Napoleon and the other, which had yet to be christened, had the most incredible clear eyes.Oh, yes -- I'm going to like this book.
Conventional wisdom--or perhaps superstition--among lion keepers, I later learned, was that one should never trust a lion with clear eyes. Like a lot of things people told me about lions over the years to come, and like conventional wisdom in general, that little gem turned out to be bullshit.
Here are some other rules about lions that Richardson was told:
- Don't look them in the eye.
- Don't turn your back on them.
- Don't crouch or kneel or they will climb up on your back.
- Don't run.
- Don't make any sudden movements.
- Don't scream. Talk quietly.
Besides, lions, like cats, use the 'slow blink' as a means of letting you know everything is cool with them. You can't exchange this signal if you don't look them in the eye.
As for never crouching in the presence of a lion, click here to read what I learned from a very endearing lion.
I was so glad to see Richardson dismiss silly "conventional wisdom" as bullshit. So much of it is. He has learned through first hand experience how to treat animals, and he has been rewarded with some of the most wonderful animal friendships, even with animals others wouldn't go near.
I will definitely be reporting more from this book. Below is a short video of Kevin Richardson with some of his animals.