By Danny Baggott @DAN_BAGGIE

A FAMILY of wildlife enthusiasts have taken animal conservation into their own hands – by caring for more than 13 lions and cheetahs

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Videographer / director: Nathan Pellow-Jarman
Producer: Danny Baggott, Ruby Coote
Editor: Ethan Edwards​

 

Barry Kerr runs the Wildlife Animal Rescue programme in Gauteng, South Africa, assisted by his wife Gretel and daughter, Kristen.

The three of them spend their days interacting with animals that have previously been mistreated or injured, including the likes of cheetahs, caracals, hyenas, wildebeest and meerkats.

Barry, as the ‘leader of the pride’, is the only person on site who works with the lions due to their size and potential danger – with the largest male, Sam, weighing just under 600lbs.

Barry has to be extra careful and considerate when reading Sam’s body language, but most of the time, that doesn’t hamper his objective of making sure his animals are enriched and well looked after.

Barry told Barcroft TV: “These animals can kill you at any second.

“They respect me and I respect them. As soon as I lose that respect, I think that’s the day I don’t go in with them anymore.

“I really believe that each animal on our planet has a role to play.

“If I can pass anything on, it’s to think about conservation.

“It’s not what you see here now, it’s what are you going to see in five years or 10 years from now?”

Barry started work at the sanctuary around four years ago, rescuing his first species.

He said: “We had three cheetahs and they suddenly turned into six cheetahs because one of them was pregnant – unbeknownst to us!

“We wanted to give them a forever home here at the sanctuary, and so we did.

“I’ve been looking after animals for about 20 years now.

“I think one big advantage of being at this facility, is that I’ve got my entire family here.

“All our animals are part of our family, too.”

Barry spends most of his days cuddling, bathing and petting the animals on site, getting up close with a strong level of interaction. 

But more recently, he has passed a number of his day-to-day responsibilities to his daughter, Kristen.

“It’s Kristen’s responsibility now to look after them and take care of them,” Barry said.

“She makes sure, each day, they’re in a healthy condition. She also feeds them.”

Life on the sanctuary has quickly become second nature to Kristen who has been surrounded by wildlife since she was a little girl.

The 21-year-old said: “All my knowledge comes from my dad and from being a baby - watching how he works with all the wild animals and how he reads their body language.

“He’s always carried so much knowledge of the animals.


“Even when he goes inside with the lions, I’m never worried, as I know he can handle himself.

“I do also think it’s insane that he can go in with these massive animals. But hopefully one day, I’ll be able to do the same and follow in his footsteps.”

Barry understands the danger that faces him each day, and is more than aware of when he should and shouldn’t approach his animals.

He said: “At three months old, a lion cub is big enough and strong enough to kill a man.

“Their muscle strength is six-times that of a grown man.

“So you can also start to imagine what a fully grown lion can do to you.

“They’re not toys to be played with. If they want to take you out, they’ll take you out.”

Despite the inevitable danger, Barry is always keen to carry on his mission and continue to develop the bond with his ‘family’.

“It makes a lot of sense to keep our bonds with the animals going,” he said.

“I don’t think I could do anything else in my life.

“I think this is the career I will die doing.”