An idea, a brave act and an adventure in Africa…

Over the past year, Finn and Elliot have been giving presentations in schools where they live in Spain, teaching young people about lions and promoting the Kevin Richardson Foundation. This year, they got the opportunity to travel to Africa and meet Kevin, as well as squeeze in some other crazy adventures. Here is their story.
Elliot (14), Finn (15)

Finn: “I think for me it all started when I stumbled upon Kevin Richardson’s YouTube videos. I remember being slightly jealous of Kevin wrestling and swimming with lions. That’s what I wanted to do! However, hearing Kevin talk about the challenges wild cats face, I realized there was more to it than just a game of footie with lions. I learned about the challenges lions face and this really made an impact. I talked about it with my best friend and big animal lover, Elliot.”

Elliot: “I’ve been worried and sad about animals facing extinction. No more giraffes, lions, orangutans…? I can’t imagine it! When Finn told me about Kevin and the lions in the Sanctuary, we decided to help. We organized a bake sale at our school in Barcelona and sold about 300 home-baked cookies. We sent the proceeds to the Kevin Richardson Foundation and were rewarded with an Insta Shoutout from Kevin in which he thanked us for our contribution. That was so cool! Then we thought: “Let’s do more!”

Finn: “Together with our mums and the Foundation, we made a slide show presentation explaining the challenges facing lions and other wild cats. We made flash cards and practiced giving the presentation to our families and friends. And then we decided we were ready for a full-on presentation at our school. I ain’t gonna lie, it was nerve-racking to walk onto that stage. However, when I was on stage and talking about lions, wildlife conservation and Kevin’s role in this, I realized that our fellow students were actually interested to hear what we had to say. It felt really good.”

Practicing the presentation to a room full of friends and family

Elliot: “We wanted to understand things even better, and see things with our own eyes. Thankfully, we have parents who support our cause and were willing to organize a trip to Africa for us. And so, in March of this year, we flew to South Africa to learn about endangered species. Our plan was to spend a few days in a game reserve with an expert safari guide, tour the Kevin Richardson Sanctuary and visit the Endangered Species Centre. On top of all this, how fun to go on an African adventure together. Of course, the ultimate bonus would be to meet Kevin and the lions in his care!”

Finn: “From the moment we arrived, it was amazing! We were the first ones up, all dressed and ready for daily 4:00 am safari drives at Pilanesberg National Park. I am not known for being able to sit still, but I happily spent the entire day in the jeep spotting wildlife and talking to rangers, taking in their knowledge of wildlife. We were very lucky to spend time with Rodney Nombekana, a big cat specialist and ambassador for the Foundation, who worked side by side with Kevin for more than a decade. Whilst observing the safari animals from his car, he talked about working with Kevin, animal behaviour, the human versus predator conflict, and the huge threat of poachers. Not only is Rodney knowledgeable and funny, he can spot a leopard when no one else can!”

Setting out for a game drive in Pilanesburg

Elliot: “Our next stop was the much anticipated visit to the KR Sanctuary in the Dinokeng Game Reserve. We spent the night at a tented camp nearby. That night, we decided to venture outside the safety of our fenced camp to go for dinner – rookie mistake! It was dark, with just the moon lighting the sandy and bumpy dirt roads. Not even 100 meters away from the camp, and a few feet from our car, we spotted two majestic giraffes standing quietly in the tall grass beside the dirt track. What a sight!  Finn and I were excited and ready for our own midnight safari drive, but our mums had different ideas and put a stop to this unexpected adventure, reasoning, “What if the next close-up is with a herd of elephants or the car breaks down?” We had to hand it to them, our car was not exactly up to a midnight off-road drive, but we were disappointed nevertheless. We turned around to the safety of our camp, eagerly awaiting the next day’s visit to the sanctuary.”

Finn: “We arrived in plenty of time and were promptly met at the sanctuary’s gate by Taheer, one of the rangers. Taheer gave us a truly mind-blowing tour of the sanctuary. Taheer knows everything there is to know about the sanctuary’s inhabitants and their personalities, how they came to live in the sanctuary, how Kevin approaches (or doesn’t approach) them, etc. We were to meet the hyenas and watch them get fed. And yes! We got to meet the lions in real life! One of the memories we will never forget is running alongside the teenage white lions, albeit on the other side of a tall fence. These lions – Thor, Charlie, Lola, Neige, Ndira and Jubari – were about our age (talking lion years here) and just as happy and keen to run up and down the fence as we were. Fun fact: One of these lions is in fact THE white lion in the movie Mia and the White Lion.”

Elliot: “Two hours (that felt like 10 minutes) later, we returned to the visitor’s tent. Sipping some cold water, we saw a black SUV approaching. Taheer casually said, “Ah, that must be Kevin coming to meet you.” We all felt a pang of nervous excitement. We were going to meet Kevin!!! We can confirm that Kevin is even cooler than his YouTube videos suggest. This man knows his stuff. It comes naturally to him to convey his passion for wildlife conservation, and he talks about it with such ease and enthusiasm, that it totally rubbed off on us.”

Finn: “We talked for hours. After learning more about the issues and asking lots of questions, he told us that we are the future and it will be down to us to make the changes necessary to preserve our planet. We focused on this: How do you get people to care enough to change their behavior? Kevin asked us to try new things, find new ways to engage people, be creative, never boring – do whatever it takes to get people fired up! He told us that he never gives the same presentation twice and constantly adapts to connect with an audience. He gave us the confidence to do the same.”
Elliot: “When it was time to say our farewells, we were inspired and fired up! We learned so much during our stay in Africa, and we now feel ready to shake things up and lead the way in educating our peers on this important cause.”

A huge thank-you to Kevin and Mandy, Taheer, Shani, Caroline, Rodney and our parents for our amazing African adventure!