That some point in most of our lives, we have a desire to hug a lion. It just seems as if they are perfectly squeezable, but most of us never have the opportunity to do it.
That isn’t the case, however, with a man from South Africa. He is an animal expert who works in Gauteng at the Lion and Safari Park. Shandor Larenty works directly with the lions because he is the head of animal husbandry.
Ever since he has been a part of the park, Shandor has taken a shine to a special animal. It is a 550-pound lion name George they have been best friends for 10 years.
Not only are they best friends, George is so familiar with Shandor that he allows him to cuddle him regularly. As far as he’s concerned, he is nothing more than a house cat that is just a little larger than normal.
When Shandor speaks about George, he says that it is like watching a child grow up. He says that he gets the same feeling as being the parent when he spends time with the king of the jungle. George seems to feel similar, as they spend a lot of time together.
Shandor said: “George is similar to me in the sense that while he’s social, he also likes to be alone a lot. It’s amazing to see that when I arrive he’ll leave the rest of the pride and walk over.”
He also mentions that lions don’t always have the best day. He knows that if George doesn’t come running up to him, it’s just one of those days and they are not going to connect.
As far as interaction is concerned, George loves to be pampered with a good massage or by having his hair brushed. They tend to play together every day.
“He absolutely loves the fly repellent we make for him. He rolls around like a little kitten, and it’s his favorite time to get a massage, or a foot rub-he loves it.”
Although they are best friends, there are times when things don’t go exactly as well as they could.
“Lions have two growls. On that day the growl was really not happy, and he just walked up to me and growled like that—and out of the blue he came running at me.
“From the left hand side came George’s lioness who grabbed him and from the right hand side George came running and knocked me to the side and grabbed (his offspring).
“It gave me time to get away.”
In the end, however, Shandor says that he feels that George has helped him in life in many ways. You can watch them interacting with each other in the video below: