What if we told you that lions in the wild enjoy being brushed, petted, and given treats just like how domesticated dogs do? You’d probably shake your head and say we were crazy. But for one South African animal expert and his 550-pound best friend and wild lion named George, this is exactly what their 10-year friendship has been like.
The two met when George was just a wee cub born at the Lion and Safari Park located in Gauteng, South Africa, and his friend, Shandor Larenty, happened to be the head of the animal husbandry department.
Since the lion was just a cub, Shandor has spent time with him, grooming and playing with him every day, which is how they became so familiar with each other. Since then, the two are often found cuddling and hanging out in ways that people didn’t think possible for a human and the king of the jungle. And although 10-year old George is now the head of his own pride, he still makes times to spend in Shandor’s presence, getting petted and groomed in the way he’s been accustomed to all those years.
27-year old Shandor shared, “It’s like watching a child grow up. It’s exactly the same feeling.”
And George loves their time together just as much as Shandor does.
“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,” Shandor explained.
In addition, Shandor said that lions are very much like humans in that they also go through good days and bad days, just like people.
According to Shandor, “If I go in there and he doesn’t come running up, then I know it’s not going to happen.”
“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,” he added.
George, His Protector
Despite their incredibly friendly relationship, Shandor still respects the fact that George is a massive killing machine. Shandor shared, “I always say, at the end of the day, their natural instinct kicks in, so if one lion has a go at you, the others join in.”
There was one incident when Shandor was with the son of George, who also happens to be part of the pride. And George ended up having to save Shandor from his son.
“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,” he said.
Shandor also shared that there is a huge benefit for him when it comes to being with the animals. He said, “I can think of times in my life where I was really struggling and the animals really helped me.”
Since sharing their story, Shandor and George have become huge TikTok sensations, with their videos getting hundreds of thousands of views daily.
Take a look at the video below to see just how special their relationship truly is.
What are your thoughts? Please comment below and share this news!
True Activist / Report a typo