The Lion Shall Lie Down with the Zoologist

On the viral video front, there is an incredible story circulating about Kevin Richardson, the so-call […]

Matt Schneider / 3.4.14

On the viral video front, there is an incredible story circulating about Kevin Richardson, the so-call “Lion Whisperer,” a South African zoologist (not the Backstreet Boy) who playfully interacts with lions and hyenas on animal sanctuaries. While watching the video, I kept thinking to myself this guy is crazy and going to end up like the Steve “Crocodile Hunter” Irwin or Timothy Treadwell, the subject of the film Grizzly Man, who were both killed by the wild animals they studied. In comparison though, there is something very fascinating and almost otherworldly about how comfortable Richardson is with these lions—they actually know him and see him as an equal. I couldn’t help but think about the idea that in a peaceable kingdom to come, the lion shall lie down with the lamb. Here is that famous passage from Isaiah:

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)

Watching Richardson associate with these animals is a vision of grace, the counterintuitive story about how creatures (including people) ought to relate, but rarely do because they are typically at odds. I’m not sure about Cesar Millan because I don’t watch the show Dog Whisperer, but one can find a similar vision of grace in the documentary Buck, which follows Buck Brannaman, the real life “horse whisperer.” These stories of Richardson and Brannaman are both glimpses or mere shadows of the seemingly impossible relationships that are promised one day to come, when the “lions” among us will dwell with the “lambs” among us. It all just makes me wish there were more “people whisperers” around before that day comes.

Question: Do you see yourself as the “Lion Whisperer”?

Richardson: If it’s a phrase people coin because of the relationships I have and the ability to interact with these animals without having to make them to submit through fear, then yes.