In a dramatic video, a lioness stretches down, ready to pounce on a man wading in a pond nearby.
But everything is not as it seems. The man in the video, 42-year-old Kevin Richardson, is known as the "lion whisperer," and when the huge predator named Meg jumps into the pond it's only to cuddle up with him.
“When I call Meg and she comes swimming and I see in her face, 'if I come to you are you going to catch me?'" he says. "She looks at me, I look at her—and we know. That’s trust." It's a trust that only comes when a human is accepted by lions as part of their "pack," which has taken Richardson years of work to achieve.
Richardson runs a wildlife sanctuary near Pretoria, South Africa, where more than 30 lions and an assortment of hyenas and other large cats are free to roam around the 3,200 acre park. Many of the animals, including Meg, have been raised by Richarson since they were just cubs.
He found Meg and her sibling starving in a ditch, abandoned by their mother. Over the years the incredible bond Richardson has developed with the cats has allowed him to get up close and personal with the huge animals.
And he's using his one-of-a-kind connection for a good cause.
People accuse Richardson of snuggling up with his lions to attract publicity - and in fact they're right.
Over the last few decades the lion population has decreased by as much as 40%, with some experts guessing there are just 20,000 of these endangered creatures left in the wild. Richardson's mission is to protect these animals, but also raise awareness about lions in captivity.
Unlike most wildlife preserves, Richarson doesn't allow guests to pet his cats. Attractions like these draw in lots of tourists, but many of the cubs that pose in selfies with guests are later sold to game reserves and shot by hunters.
“The relationships I have with them are purely to give them a better quality of life in a captive situation,” Richardson told AP. “I will look after them as long as I can." When it is finally time to say goodbye, Richardson guarantees his animals will go to a reputable zoo or shelter where they will be protected.
Until then, he uses his "unspoken language" with the big cats to attract attention and raise money for his park. With support from fans around the world, Richardson has saved dozens of animals that he says were "destined for a bullet."
You can support Richardson and learn more about him on his website.
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