By Mark McConville



INCREDIBLE video footage has captured a brave man stroking a lion’s mane as it cuddles up to him.


The stunning clip shows the lion nuzzling up to his human friend before letting out a few roars of satisfaction.

GG Conservation /


The pair appears to have a close bond which allows the man to play with his fearsome friend who is not usually known for being kind of humans.


The cute encounter was filmed at Glen Garriff Conservation in Harrismith, South Africa and shows lion manager Mike Thulani interaction with a lion called Smokey.


“Mike is an exceptional zulu man and has an extraordinary gift with all our lions, especially Smokey,” said Suzanne Scott, director of GG Lions NPC, who is originally from Leeds, UK.

GG Conservation /


“His gift is something difficult to explain but he seems to be able to connect with lions on a deeper level to what we can understand. Smokey is a 10-year-old male lion and already a social media superstar; a lion who has the X factor.


“Mike has known Smokey all his life, has always been his main caretaker and they have an amazing animal/human bond. Smokey often looks for Mike for scratches and interaction.


“I want to make it clear at this point this is a very special relationship and exceptional situation and we do not want to encourage people to try to do this or in fact want to ‘pet’ lion cubs which is in general, very harmful to that lions future.”

GG Conservation /


GG conservation are all about the preservation and protection of the lions that reside on our land. The first lions were introduced to Glen Garriff in 2002, 100 years after the last two wild lions were hunted down on Platberg in 1902.


Glen Garriff Conservation is committed to the sustainability of the African lion population in South Africa and to the enhancement of the study, learning and understanding of the species.


Statistics show that our natural lion wild population is under severe threat of survival due to habitat loss, human/wildlife conflict, environmental changes caused by global climate change and trophy hunting.

GG Conservation /


“Myself and the owner Patrick Shannon are constantly taking various videos close up at the fence so we get the best videos we can given the circumstances,” added Ms Scott.


“Obviously we always remember these are wild animals with wild instincts and we respect that at all times. What we love about our work is the satisfaction we get from messages all around the world thanking us for cheering them up in the big cities and concrete jungles with some beautiful footage of lions and African scenery that they would otherwise never get to see.


“People love to see interaction of a human with a lion but with that we always try to give the message that this is an exception to the rule and with it comes a responsibility to try to educate people about the plight of lions, which is not often easy to get across.

GG Conservation /

“As you may see on our social media most of our videos are not based on human interaction, as this can sometimes inspire people to want to ‘pet’ wild animals which in most cases results in a terrible future for that animal once the animal is too big to be handled any more so we need to explain that we are a non profit lion sanctuary where the lions stay safe for the duration of their lives and no public interaction is allowed.”


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