World renowned Conservationist Kevin Richardson founded a wildlife sanctuary that is home to more than 30 of the endangered beasts in a bid to save the species.
This candid image of this great man wrestling with two full-grown lions is as heartwarming as it is fearsome – but the image also has a serious undertone.
Lion Whisperer Kevin Richardson has teamed up with wildlife photographer Adrian Steirn to shoot what they are calling the perfect billboard shot – depicting the plight of Africa’s lions and their future.
The pictures were taken back in December 2015 in collaboration with Mercedes Benz and give us a glimpse behind the scenes as the pair tried to get the perfect shot.
Their aim was shooting a single picture that would capture a conservation message: “What legacy will we leave for our future generations?”
Another image captures a lion looking as proud and professional as any male model sprawled across the hood of a white Mercedes G-class during a photo shoot.
In others we can see one the majestic animals inspecting a camp fire and prowling on top of the Mercedes.
Photographer Steirn, 36, said: “Hearing a two-ton vehicle creak and move and seeing the dents in the car that the lion left behind was a fascinating experience.
“It was unbelievable to see the size of their paws and how easy it was for them to jump onto the vehicle, just how athletic they are.”
Richardson is a conservationist whose work has brought literally millions of people around the world into the discussion about lion conservation.
The founder of a wildlife sanctuary that is now forever home to over 30 lions, Richardson has developed an intimate bond with his cats and he famously walks freely among the animals.
Steirn added: “To be able to really understand Kevin’s background and relationship with these big cats was incredible.”
“He puts his heart and soul into lion conservation, so to be able to showcase the cats and their massive value to our world in this way was a great opportunity.”
“The lions weren’t wild but habituated lions. Kevin was at home in his wildlife sanctuary with these huge carnivores.”
The pair were given just 48 hours to work with some of the most impressive predators in Pretoria’s Welgedacht Private Game Reserve.
Getting the final winning shot proved to be less than easy because the lions had to first become accustomed to Steirn.
The challenge for the duo lay in framing the male lion to the right of a caged female behind bars in one of Richardson’s transport, which was being used as a makeshift prop to represent captivity.
This is the image that has been selected for the campaign.
During the project the pair also ran into some difficulty with bad weather conditions – facing a heavy storm in the first 24 hours of the shoot.
“That put a lot of pressure on time,” said Steirn.
Along with the shrinking habitat, the number of lions are decreasing rapidly with the current estimated population down to just 20,000 – a major decrease on the estimated 100,000 in the early 1990s.
“They are such big animals so I was very well aware of them because things can go wrong very quickly with the lions,” said Steirn.
“I have been shooting wild lions for almost 20 years now and to shoot these lions in this capacity and to get this close was really extraordinary.”