By Liam Miller

HANDSOME lion wrangler Shandor Larenty is so busy with his lions and hyenas - who like to give him kisses - has no time for romantic relationships with girls

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Videographer / director: Nathan Pellow-Jarman
Producer: Liam Miller, Ruby Coote
Editor: Ross Dower

While his friends were out partying and enjoying their teens, the dedicated 24-year-old was working night shifts at The Lion Park near Johannesburg, South Africa, mucking out hyenas, watching over sick lions, or doing special night feeds with injured giraffes.

While Shandor admits he’s doing his “dream job”, the work is demanding it means he has no time for a love life.

Thankfully he does get affection from somewhere, but it’s usually from his furry friends at the park like Themba the hyena.

“She loves kisses,” said Shandor. “She also likes to have her tongue scratched, which is weird, but she just loves it.”

Alex, Shandor’s father, made international headlines in 2010 when he was photographed giving one of the Lion Park’s huge male lions, called Jamu, a foot massage. 

And now Shandor works so closely with the big cats and other predators at the large animal attraction that he has recreated the daring feat with George, a different male in the Park’s pride aged seven. 

But while crowds visiting the location are amazed at the interaction between the father and son with the animals, Shandor says it shouldn’t be taken lightly.

He said: “You always have to be cautious whether it’s a giraffe or a lion, these are wild animals and at the end of the day they all have the ability to either cause you some serious harm or potentially kill you.” 

But Shandor wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Most people work nine-to-five jobs in an office,” he said. “I get to come out here into the African bush and see my lions. It’s like a dream.

“George was born at the park and Shandor has been by his side for almost his whole life. I’ve maintained a relationship with him all the way through, which is why I can be so close to him.

“The best thing about working with these animals is building relationships with them. Most people looks and think ‘oh, that’s a cheetah, that’s a lion.’ But we have lions with different personalities, so working with them is actually understanding them on a personal level.

Shador started volunteering when he was just 13 and would ‘race’ to the facility where his dad worked straight after school, taking every opportunity he could get to have contact with the predators and other exotic animals native to southern Africa.

Now 24, Shandor is continuing the father and son tradition, working full time at the Lion Park and showing incredible bonds and interaction with the resident animals. In fact it’s part of a legacy that saw Alex’s mum, Shandor’s grandmother, working with animals too.

The father and son duo say their close contact approach to working with animals can pay off for everyone, including the animals, as evidenced by their resident cheetah Shitana. 

Shandor said: “At 17 years old, she has far outlived the normal ten-to-twelve years life expectancy for a captive cheetah, and we think this is because we are so close to our animals, spending time in contact with them every day.  

“If there’s a problem, we will spot it quickly and get the animal to treatment,” he said.