Part of the Pride: My Life Among the Big Cats of Africa

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9780312556730: Part of the Pride: My Life Among the Big Cats of Africa

In "Part of the Pride", Kevin Richardson, recently dubbed "The Lion Man" on 60 Minutes, tells the story of how he grew from a young boy who loved animals to become a man able to cross the divide between humans and predators, looking some of the world's most dangerous animals directly in the eye, playing with them and even kissing them on the nose-all without ever being attacked or injured. As a self-taught animal behaviorist, Richardson has broken every safety rule known to humans when working with these wild animals. Flouting common misconceptions that breaking an animal's spirit with sticks and chains is the best way to subdue them, he uses love, understanding and trust to develop personal bonds with them. His unique method of getting to know their individual personalities, what makes each of them angry, happy, upset, or irritated has caused them to accept him like one of their own into their fold. Richardson allows the animals' own stories to share center stage as he tells readers about Napoleon and Tau, the two he calls his "brothers"; the amazing Meg, a lioness Richardson taught to swim; the fierce Tsavo who savagely attacked him; and the heartbreaking little hyena called Homer who didn't live to see his first birthday. In "Part of the Pride", Richardson, with novelist Tony Park, delves into the mind of the big cats and their world to show readers a different way of understanding the dangerous big cats of Africa.

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About the Author:

KEVIN RICHARDSON is a world renowned wildlife conservationist and filmmaker, recognized by his persona as the ‘Lion Whisperer’. His mission is to highlight the status of the Africa’s most iconic predator, the lion, through his work in the media and alongside fellow campaigners, researchers and scientists. In June 2014 he launched his own YouTube channel Lion Whisperer TV introducing the world to his lions and work on a daily basis.

TONY PARK is the author of multiple other books set in Africa, including Ivory, Silent Predator and African Sky. He splits his time between Africa and his home in Australia.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

ONE

The Bird Man of Orange Grove

I spent my childhood in stitches—the kind the doctor sews into your skin, not the ones you get from rolling around on the floor in laughter. My mom used to say that I was on a collision course with life. She was a smart one, my mom. There was always a certain wildness in me, that I know. When I look back on my early life, it’s easy for me now to see the brave lion, the giggling hyena, and the rogue elephant in the things I did then.

I loved the outdoors, but when I was growing up my piece of Africa was limited to a few blocks in the white middle-class suburb of Orange Grove in the north of Johannesburg. I grew up during the time of apartheid among neatly ordered rows of houses, straight streets, backyard gardens, barking dogs, and meowing cats, not rolling savannahs populated by herds of wildebeest, trumpeting elephants, and stalking lions. It was the suburbs, but it could be just as dangerous as the bush.

My mom was always getting calls from school telling her that I’d been hurt, or else I would simply show up at home, bleeding. I was never one to do anything half-hearted, so if I was going to cut myself I would come close to losing an entire limb. I would fall through glass coffee tables, off bicycles, and out of trees, and generally do all the things mothers like to cry about.

“We had better buy this little Kevin a sewing machine so he can sew himself up, hey, Patricia?” the doctor said to my mom once. The doctor and I saw so much of each other we were like buddies. I laughed, then winced, as the dreaded needle punctured skin again and again and again.

One of the earliest mishaps that I can remember was getting on my neighbor’s full-sized racing bicycle when I was only three or four years old. It was, I think, the beginning of a lifelong love affair with dangerous things and two-wheeled transport. I’m into extreme sports, I fly microlights, and I play with lions for a living. I have an old 1969 Triumph Bonneville motorcycle and I love riding super-bikes on the track. My hero is the Italian motorcycle champion Valentino Rossi and while I can’t ride as fast as him, I’ve probably been in as many crashes as he has.

I wanted desperately to ride that bicycle and although I was too small to reach the pedals, my neighbor took pity on me and we went for a spin. I was whooping with joy as we gathered speed down the street, the wind rushing in my face as I clung to the older boy. Another kid from the neighborhood, however, thought it would be good fun to push his little wagon into our path and wipe us out. He did a good job and down we went. No one knows how, but in the process I managed to get my toe caught between the bicycle’s sprocket and the chain. The cycle was on its side and I was still attached to it, by a piece of stretched skin that was just barely connected to the top of my toe.

“Ag, what are we going to do?” asked the panicked owner of the bike.

“We better pull him free,“ said the evil little shit who had caused the accident. On the count of three the two other boys grabbed me and pulled. Hard. With a piercing yelp on my part, the top of my toe came free from the sprocket and chain—and from me.

“It’s moving!” cried the bad boy, pointing down at my severed digit. Although I couldn’t see it, the other boys swore the tip of my toe was jumping and wriggling like a gecko’s tail when the lizard sheds it to shake off a predator.

While I lay bleeding, my neighbor ran off looking for help and the wagon driver disappeared from the scene of the crime. The cause of the accident—and my considerable pain—reappeared a short while later with a spade. He raised it over his head with his skinny little arms then slammed it down hard onto the ground, and my missing toe.

“Why are you doing that?” I wailed.

“It’s freaking me out. It’s alive, man!” He raised the spade and smashed down again and again, as if he were killing a snake. Once he was sure he had killed my toe, he dug a hole and buried the evidence. Shortly after, the man from across the road arrived and bundled me into the back of his brand new BMW. It was a lekker car and I bled all over the leather upholstery.

“Okay, where’s the toe?” asked the doctor when we arrived at Johannesburg Hospital.

“Um, they buried it,“ I said to the doctor.

The boys were dispatched back to Orange Grove to exhume the missing digit. South African surgeon Dr. Christiaan Barnard may have made history by performing the first successful heart transplant, but not even the most skilled surgeon in the world could reat-tach the crushed, earth-encrusted lump of skin that those two boys brought into the operating room.

I was born in downtown Johannesburg in the Nightingale Clinic in 1974, two years before television arrived in South Africa, although my family didn’t get a TV until I was eight years old. When we did, we were so excited we’d watch the test pattern, but it was no wonder that I learned early on in life how to get my thrills in the backyard and on the streets, and with my animals.

My mom, Patricia, worked as a trust executive for Barclays Bank. She was born in South Africa, but her parents emigrated from England. I don’t know exactly what my father, Peter, did, but he worked for a pharmaceutical company—in quality control, I think. He had moved to South Africa from Reading, in the county of Berkshire in the south of England, early in his life. Our relationship was very formal and separate. He was a quiet man. I didn’t have the chance to ask him too many questions, we didn’t do father and son things together, and he died when I was twelve or thirteen. Like most of the people in Orange Grove, we lived in quite a small 1940s brick three-bedroom house on a big block. I had an older brother and two older twin sisters. We lived on a busy street, Ninth Avenue, which connected the major suburbs in the area. We had tarred roads and “robots”—what we call traffic lights—and my primary means of transport, until I was old enough to ride a bicycle and, later, steal cars, was my red skateboard.

I didn’t have the most privileged upbringing. As kids, we never got pocket money or had many toys. We ran our own jumble sales, finding unwanted clothing and knickknacks and selling them to black African people who were worse off than we were. We’d also do gardening chores for neighbors and wash cars. The little money I made usually went for sweets or small toy cars and my dreams were not very grand. The toy I wished for most was a radio-controlled car, but there was no way I was ever going to be able to afford one. I worked hard and finally saved enough money for a remote-control car—one of those where the car is attached to the control via a cable. I was so disappointed. I saw myself watching the car zoom around the room while I stood still and watched. Not so with this one. The wire from the remote to the car kept on getting tangled on things and I had to follow the car everywhere like a dog on a lead.

It was the poor man’s version of a true radio-controlled car and not much fun.

Perhaps because of disappointments like the one with the car or the fact that I didn’t have every toy or bike I wanted, I developed a love of animals, reptiles, and insects early on in life. People who know me usually assume that passion came from my mother, but she is not, in fact, a big animal person. It was quiet, reserved Dad who brought our first pet home—that much I can remember. It was a tiny stray kitten called Tiger, which he carried in his lunch box. I was about six years old at the time. Dad said he wanted to give us something that we could nurture. He told us the cat had been left to die at a rubbish dump.

We only went away on holiday as an entire family on one occasion when I was a child, in 1980, to the Drakensburg Mountains in Natal. Money was becoming a problem in our household, so all our school holidays, except for that one to the mountains, were spent at home. My brother Gareth and twin sisters Corrine and Candice and I developed a theory that our parents were giving us pets instead of holidays. After Tiger the cat, there was a procession of parrots, goldfish, and dogs as birthday and Christmas presents. The excuse for not going away somewhere exotic on vacation was that we could not leave the animals behind. My dad probably thought the pets would keep our minds off things at home, which were becoming steadily worse as his grip on his career, and his sobriety, became looser and looser.

At any one time we would have about four dogs, three or four cats, the goldfish, and several species of birds including pigeons, doves, weavers, mouse birds, parrots, and other wild birds. I graduated to brown house snakes, and eventually to anacondas. Until recently I had an anaconda which was more than ten feet long. It even had its own small house on the property where I now live. Even though Dad was more interested in the pets than Mom, I don’t remember him being around a lot to share them with us. As I said, he had a drinking problem. He seemed to be away a lot and eventually he was downgraded at work. Even with all his troubles, I do recall him bringing home more stray animals and injured birds, which helped spark my interest in caring for things. He seemed to be trying to make a connection with us, but at the same time always seemed so distant and far away.

One of my schoolmates, Warren Lang, kept homing pigeons—big white fantails—and for whatever reason he was told he had to get rid of them. It seemed natural for me to take them on. Without anyone’s permission, we disassembled his pigeon hok (the Afrikaans word for cage) and moved it, piece by piece, three blocks away to my house, where we reassembled it. We then shuttled the birds, one at a time.

I started breeding the birds and found that I loved it. I woul...

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Book Description St Martin s Press, United States, 2017. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. In Part of the Pride, Kevin Richardson, recently dubbed The Lion Man on 60 Minutes, tells the story of how he grew from a young boy who loved animals to become a man able to cross the divide between humans and predators, looking some of the world s most dangerous animals directly in the eye, playing with them and even kissing them on the nose-all without ever being attacked or injured. As a self-taught animal behaviorist, Richardson has broken every safety rule known to humans when working with these wild animals. Flouting common misconceptions that breaking an animal s spirit with sticks and chains is the best way to subdue them, he uses love, understanding and trust to develop personal bonds with them. His unique method of getting to know their individual personalities, what makes each of them angry, happy, upset, or irritated has caused them to accept him like one of their own into their fold. Richardson allows the animals own stories to share center stage as he tells readers about Napoleon and Tau, the two he calls his brothers ; the amazing Meg, a lioness Richardson taught to swim; the fierce Tsavo who savagely attacked him; and the heartbreaking little hyena called Homer who didn t live to see his first birthday. In Part of the Pride, Richardson, with novelist Tony Park, delves into the mind of the big cats and their world to show readers a different way of understanding the dangerous big cats of Africa. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780312556730

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Book Description St Martin s Press, United States, 2017. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. In Part of the Pride, Kevin Richardson, recently dubbed The Lion Man on 60 Minutes, tells the story of how he grew from a young boy who loved animals to become a man able to cross the divide between humans and predators, looking some of the world s most dangerous animals directly in the eye, playing with them and even kissing them on the nose-all without ever being attacked or injured. As a self-taught animal behaviorist, Richardson has broken every safety rule known to humans when working with these wild animals. Flouting common misconceptions that breaking an animal s spirit with sticks and chains is the best way to subdue them, he uses love, understanding and trust to develop personal bonds with them. His unique method of getting to know their individual personalities, what makes each of them angry, happy, upset, or irritated has caused them to accept him like one of their own into their fold. Richardson allows the animals own stories to share center stage as he tells readers about Napoleon and Tau, the two he calls his brothers ; the amazing Meg, a lioness Richardson taught to swim; the fierce Tsavo who savagely attacked him; and the heartbreaking little hyena called Homer who didn t live to see his first birthday. In Part of the Pride, Richardson, with novelist Tony Park, delves into the mind of the big cats and their world to show readers a different way of understanding the dangerous big cats of Africa. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780312556730

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