Lion Surgery

blog post photo

© Renegade Pictures

The Kingdom of the White Lion is a 700 hectare private wildlife sanctuary. It’s home to some of Africa’s most notorious predators, like lions, hyenas and black leopards. Kevin Richardson, a controversial hands-on animal behaviorist and conservationist, runs the facility.

This sanctuary requires over $20,000 per month to feed the animals, pay veterinarian bills and maintain the property. While these bills are currently covered by a private benefactor, funding is running low. If the facility can’t take care of its finances, the animals could be sold.

Rafiki, a tawny African lion, is suffering from a genetic abnormality – an extra dew claw on both his hind legs – and in desperate need of surgery.
His redundant dew claws could be accidentally torn off and become infected. He also has a clumsy saunter with his dew claws flopping around – surgery might allow Rafiki to walk properly. Normally dew claws are only found on the front legs of a lion. They function as a thumb, helping the lion hunt and hold down prey. 

Before the operation can take place, Rafiki must be anesthetized. After enticing him with scraps of meat, sanctuary staff use a pole dart to subdue him. But anesthetizing a lion is tricky business – it’s difficult to judge the appropriate dosage – too much, and Rafiki’s heart could stop. Too little, and the lion might wake up before the surgery is completed.

The Kingdom of the White Lion is not only dealing with Rafiki’s surgery. An abandoned hyena cub must be introduced into the nursery, a painful death occurs, and there’s a dangerous bush fire…

Watch Lion Ranger: Death in the Kingdom TONIGHT at 8 PM et/pt on Nat Geo Wild!

Video Preview: “Murdered by a Snake” — A lion cub is found dead in the kingdom’s enclosure. What caused such a violent death?


  1. anniegreen
    January 13, 2011, 8:39 am

    I have no idea if Mr. Richardson reads these posts, however if you do I would like to ask your permission to post the story of your kingdom to my FaceBook page with the sincere hope that other animal lovers, like myself, would read about it and be willing to assist you with funding. Thank you for your kind attention.