There’s a reason why wild animals are given the term “wild”. Their instinctual actions are unpredictable and their aggressive nature makes them unsafe to be with. Taming one can be seen as a big feat but getting the big cats to stroll with you is a bigger one. Dean Schneider, born on October 3 1992 in Switzerland was just like the average Swiss financier until he moved to South Africa to open his 4-kilometer squares animal sanctuary dubbed Hakuna Mipaka.
Opening a sanctuary wasn’t what made the Swiss-Boy (nick-name) popular, of course, he wasn’t the first to do that. Schneider became an internet sensation when his love for animals reciprocated through his lion pride and the few other animals he kept. Getting not just a big cat but big cats climb over you for pats and strokes like a dog can seem very risky but not for Dean. He claims to have bonded so well with the animals that they see him as one of them and even fights for his attention! Although he is sometimes controversial, and blamed for animal abuse or creating misconceptions about wild animals, this hasn’t stopped him from feeding his fans with daily doses of his life with “family”.
The big question has been and will always be, how was Dean Schneider able to hack into the emotions of these animals and make them so fond of him? There are many speculations to this but Dean has also given an insight on how he was able to become a part of the family. According to him, he got them at a very young age which is always the first step to domesticating any animal. Getting a lion cub doesn’t guarantee its loyalty to you in the future, there are several things that should be considered too. Dean Schneider talked about several things such as body language and communication. He said he studied the animals’ body language ranging from their eye movement to their tail positions. Since animals are not all that vocal in communication, he uses their body language to read what messages they’re trying to pass. This doesn’t mean that you could just go to the wild and start playing emotional tricks on a lion, you might get mauled. Just like stated above, Dean Schneider has lived with these animals since they were cubs which calculate to be more than 2 years. He revealed that he didn’t teach them any form of command or language just like we do to domestic dogs but he had to conform to learning theirs including their habits and behaviors. He tried to speculate that wild animals don’t need to live under the command and strict control as it will rather create friction between your relationship with them. Just like in a lion pride there is an alpha male who dominates the territory, Dean has no problem with conforming to his rules since he is a part of the family and needs to follow family rules.
Sometimes he tries to mimic their actions by bending to drink with them, using his hands to mimic licking blood off their faces after a meal (the traditional way lions clean themselves), and playing with them the animal way. This system of relationship has made him to be accepted and loved immensely among the pride. The Hakuna Mipaka does not only house a lion pride but hyenas, monkeys, wolves, and cheetahs who Dean Schneider have all tamed. Watch video below where Dean tells us how he became part of the pride while spending time with his pets.
The animal rights activist seems to have dedicated his life to these animals and used his online generated income and popularity to create a better life for all wild animals.