'Lion Whisperer' Took 3 Lions for Walk. It Did Not End Well

22-year-old woman mauled to death in South Africa
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 28, 2018 8:41 AM CST
Kevin Richardson takes two of his lions for a walk in the Dinokeng Game Reserve, near Pretoria, South Africa, on March 15, 2017.   (AP Photo/Denis Farrell, File)

(Newser) – A lion that mauled a young woman to death in South Africa was under the care of a man known as the "lion whisperer" for his close interactions with the predators in his animal sanctuary. Kevin Richardson, who keeps lions at his "intimate glam camp" in the Dinokeng Game Reserve north of Johannesburg, said on Facebook that he and an "experienced" colleague took three lions for a walk in the reserve on Tuesday and that one chased an impala, eventually encountering the 22-year-old woman at least 1.2 miles away, per the AP. Richardson said he followed procedure before the weekly excursion by assessing the area for other "big five" animals (rhino, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and lion), and sending out a "notification" that he was walking with lions. The woman died at the camp run by Richardson, who said he was "devastated."

"The young woman was not a guest at the camp, but had accompanied her friend to conduct an interview for an assignment with the camp's manager," he said. "Before leaving the reserve, the two visitors were taking photographs outside the camp where the attack occurred." The management of the Dinokeng reserve said the woman was killed "within a conservation section [of the reserve] that is not accessible to the general public," noting the lion wasn't wild. Richardson previously said many of the lions in his care were rescued from being transferred to facilities where customers kill captive-bred lions in relatively confined areas, dubbed "canned hunting" by critics. Some conservationists say captive-bred lions lose their fear of people and should not be released into the wild, partly because they pose a heightened threat to humans.

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