Face-to-face with lions

Clarissa Ward, on assignment for 60 Minutes, travels to South Africa and films a remarkable relationship between one man and his lions

CBS All Access
This video is available on CBS All Access

Having covered war and revolution, CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward has experienced a great deal of danger, but Ward says that getting a close look into "the world of lions," while on assignment for 60 Minutes, was "actually very frightening." How close did Ward get? She tells Overtime that she could, literally, smell one lion's breath.

Ward was in South Africa, mingling with lions, to interview so-called "lion whisperer" Kevin Richardson. Richardson has spent years caring for a group of lions that, he says, would have been otherwise sold off to "canned hunting" preserves. Canned hunting, legal in South Africa, allows lions -- many of them somewhat domesticated -- to be released in an enclosed area to then be killed by amateur hunters.

Clarissa's interview with Richardson -- as he wrestles and cuddles with lions -- is one of the most unusual we've seen on 60 Minutes.

The following is a script of the video produced for 60 Minutes Overtime by Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson, Lisa Orlando, Craig Crawford and Sarah Springer.

[Clarissa Ward: Now you're not afraid she's going to bite your finger?]

[Kevin Richardson: Oh she'll try. You know, she'll try her luck, but you're right.]

Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson: Clarissa, you come across as fearless in war zones. But out there in nature, around lions, the fear comes through a little bit.

Clarissa Ward: Well it's funny you should say that. Because I was like, "Finally, there's no conflict in this story. There's no war. I don't have to worry about being shot at." But once I was up close, near to these lions, I think it's easy to forget when you see Kevin hugging them and cuddling with them and it almost looks like they're these adorable cats. But once you're standing in their presence and you see their mass and their power and their teeth and their claws, it is actually very frightening.

Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson: How did you come across Kevin Richardson?

Clarissa Ward: I came across Kevin originally because he made a video that went viral on the Internet.

Clarissa Ward: Where he just had lots of small GoPro cameras attached to him.

[Kevin Richardson: Where have you been?]

Clarissa Ward: And when you're watching it, it's the most breathtaking thing you've ever seen. Because part of you is like, "This can't possibly end well." And then the other part of you is just completely transported by the magic of this moment.

Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson: What is the general theme of your story?

Clarissa Ward: Well, the general theme of this story is looking at a man who has an extraordinary gift with these animals. And through that gift we get a window into the world of lions, but the main purpose of this story as well is that Kevin essentially sheds light on a tourism industry in South Africa that a lot of people don't know about. And that is the cub petting tourism industry where tourists, many of them Americans, will pay a lot of money to go to these facilities and play with the baby cubs and have their pictures taken. But the reality is most of these lions, once they're mature, are being sold to canned hunting operations. Where anybody can go and pay up to 100,000 dollars and a lion is placed in a limited enclosure and the lion is then hunted and shot.

[Cameraman: I'm rolling.]

[Clarissa Ward: Okay? Ready, alright.]

Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson: At one point you and Kevin Richardson, are standing in front of this caged pickup truck. And they seemed pretty tame. Did you feel at least comfortable there?

Clarissa Ward: Well, I think when they're in the cage you do start to feel quite comfortable. And you see Kevin is putting his finger in the cage.

[Clarissa Ward: I could almost fit my head in there.]

[Kevin Richardson: You could. Yeah.]

Clarissa Ward: They seem to be sort of having fun. And everyone's very relaxed. And then he was wearing this GoPro camera.

[Kevin Richardson: Let's go.]

Clarissa Ward: It's called, like, a baboon's tail because it comes up on this rig so that it can shoot everything in front of him. And if he moved suddenly, the male lion went, "Vrump."

[Kevin Richardson: As you can see...]

[Clarissa Ward: Sorry, I...]

[Kevin Richardson: This one. It's the right reaction.]

Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson: The surprise, it seemed, for you, was that the lion's breath wasn't so bad.

[Clarissa Ward: I can smell his breath. It's surreal. I never thought I would smell a lion's breath.]

[Kevin Richardson: And it's not so bad. It's not, you know. People would think it's quite stinky. But it's not.]

[Clarissa Ward: No.]

Clarissa Ward: I didn't know what, exactly, to expect from a lion's breath. It smelled pretty sweet to me, simply because I lived to tell the story.

Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson: Clarissa what were some of the challenges that you may have faced because you're dealing with wild animals, after all?

[Kevin Richardson: You're naughty. You know you're a naughty lion.]

Clarissa Ward: Well, Kevin doesn't carry a whip or a stun gun with him. So when we were trying to orchestrate this interview...

[Kevin Richardson: Not me, they...]

Clarissa Ward: ...with two cameras and myself and Kevin.

Clarissa Ward: And three lions with Kevin.

[Kevin Richardson: Lie down!]

Clarissa Ward: The logistics.

Clarissa Ward: The minute you got one lion to come and sit down with him, then the other lion would walk off in the other direction.

[Kevin Richardson: I don't need more damage to cars, my boy, you know...]

Clarissa Ward: By the end we were like, "Forget three lions. We'll take one."

Clarissa Ward: There's an incredible father/son team in South Africa who do amazing work with drones. They have a camera attached to the drone.

[Cameraman: Camera speed.]

Clarissa Ward: And so they were able to go overhead and watch Kevin with his lions from the sky, which gave this new and beautiful angle to look at this. It's completely changed the way we view wildlife. That's such a unique perspective to suddenly be looking down and you suddenly get a real sense of the vastness of the Savanna and the incredible beauty of the landscape. It's quite breathtaking.

Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson: Your cameramen, Chris Everson and Ian Robbie, who are both South African, so they're familiar with this terrain, but was this difficult for them to shoot as well?

Clarissa Ward: I think they had enormous amounts of fun shooting this.

[Cameraman: This way, this way, this way...]

Clarissa Ward: I mean, who wouldn't? Because really it's such a rare privilege to get up close to these stunning and powerful, incredible animals. And to watch Kevin interacting with them.

[Kevin Richardson: Here comes naughty sister.]

Clarissa Ward: It really is one of those things that makes you think, "Okay, this is really not such a bad job after all."