A Swiss financier who quit his job to care for a pride of lions in South Africa has shared terrifying images showing him getting up close to the ferocious animals.
The unnerving footage shows Dean Schneider standing calmly to greet three big cats that leap out of the tall grass and knock him to the ground. 27’s program had been very successful in mainstream commercial life, but he decided he wanted to follow his passion for wildlife advocacy.
Today, he lives on a wildlife sanctuary in South Africa – which he runs – and regularly shares remarkable pictures and video of him frolicking with supposedly dangerous wild animals via Instagram.
‘I wouldn’t call it playing with lions,’ says Dean. ‘Because it’s more living with lions, and being part of their pride. ‘And yes, one part of it is, of course, playing – the same as we humans also like to play with one another. But there are a lot of other serious situations that I’m also part of and this is why I actually don’t like to promote what I’m doing as just playing with lions.
‘It’s definitely not a good idea to play with lions!’
Despite the fact he spends much of his days since moving to South Africa frolicking with strong, toothsome beasts, Dean says he’s never scared. ‘The moment I would start to be scared of them is the moment I would stop walking in there,’ he says.
‘Because fear is the last thing you should show when you’re around them. Anyway, it is a fact that we only fear what we don’t know. As soon as you know something or become aware of a situation, even though the situation may be dangerous, it doesn’t scare you. ‘With lions, I know exactly how they think and how they work. I constantly communicate with them when I spend time with them. So there was never a situation where I was afraid, even when I was hurt.
“Getting hurt by a lion while spending time with them is totally normal.”
However, even Dean wouldn’t get to interact with truly wild animals. “You definitely can’t achieve it in the wild and this will never be possible because hyenas also live in clans and if something could be a threat to them or there is something to eat around them, they will kill you.”
‘The same as with the lions and even with my animals, it doesn’t matter if they are out of captivity or not. ‘If you just went in there with just Dexter and the pack or Chuckie the hyena, chances are you’d get killed. ‘
‘It doesn’t matter if they are free or in captivity’
“You can’t just go to a clan of hyenas or a pride of lions just with some conversations and movements trying to become part of them. ‘You have to grow up, you have to know them from a young age and then you can do things like that. Otherwise this will never work. Surprisingly, Dean never trained or practiced before getting stuck with his animals.
‘It’s one hundred percent natural. They look at me like a brother, like a part of his family.’ Dean is quick to point out that his role is not that of an authority figure in the eyes of the animal.
‘They don’t look at me as a teacher or a boss. There’s no chance I could tell Dexter or one of my animals to walk over there or sit down or do this and that. They will look at me and think what this guy is talking about.
“I’m not training these animals, I’m basically living with them.” Communication, according to Dean, is key: ‘I learn their language and I speak their language.
“Most of it is based on body language, of course, because every move you make is like a word or a sentence. “So even when you move your eyes or head in a certain direction while the rest of your body doesn’t move, that already means something and that’s already a signal to them.
And it’s actually the body language that does the magic. ‘The more you understand them, the more you can communicate with them clearly. I think that’s the secret.
‘In my opinion, they are even smarter or smarter than us humans, because our super intelligence makes us stupid.’ Dean has given a lot of thought to how his lions perceive the world.
“Lions break everything down into a simple image and this often makes them very wise when thinking about situations. ‘They build incredible strategies. You can see the way they try to get closer to something when they have a goal, when they want to get somewhere, when they want to jump on you, or when they want to do something else.
‘The lions established a certain strategy and you can see that. You can see the whole process of how they are reaching their goal. And this is incredibly smart to me. Dean firmly believes that animals live in fairer societies than human beings.
‘Everyone in the pride, including me, plays a different role. ‘Everyone is aware of their own position and their own role and nobody steps out of line. “And this is super interesting because if you look at a football team or a family, we humans tend to struggle to stay in line and do what we’re here for.
“Animals know exactly who has what position and what to do. They also know exactly when they do something wrong. If seeing these remarkable images and clips inspires you to help Dean’s mission, he’s got a few projects on the go. I am building a huge audience on social media, this is very important because my main mission is to bring animals into people’s hearts to inspire and educate people around the world about the animal kingdom.
‘Everything goes towards the cause of my mission, which is the animals. However, their reservation has turned out to be an expensive undertaking. ‘The maintenance of the Hakuna Mipaka Oasis is combined with high costs. This includes building camps, feeding the animals, paying vet bills, and much more.
‘I also have a specific project called ‘Live Wild’. My property has a total of 360 hectares and I want to contribute most of my property (300 hectares), which would be the back of the farm, to the pride of lions so that they can live and hunt alone and live like savages. . as possible.
‘But to do that, I need to build a second fence around the permit fence. Otherwise, I wouldn’t get permission to do that.’ Despite the challenges, Dean is happy with his life choices and it is unlikely that he will return to the cutthroat world of finance anytime soon. “Earning money is fun and you can buy a lot of things,” he says.
‘But these things only make you happy for a certain period. As long as you build something through your own passion, something that makes a difference on this planet, it will make you happy for a lifetime and that is why I decided to move to South Africa to dedicate my time, money and everything that I am to the animal. world.’