Smithsonian Large 2

via press release:






NEW YORK, February 18, 2015 – “Lion whisperer” Kevin Richardson and some of the world’s leading wildlife biologists set up a series of remarkable experiments designed to unravel the mysteries of two apex predators and arch rivals in a new two-part series. KILLER IQ: LION VS. HYENA premieres March 4th and March 11th at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Smithsonian Channel. Nicknamed the ‘lion whisperer’ by his global fans, Richardson has forged an incredibly close bond with these formidable carnivores – interacting with them as one of the group.


In this new series, for the first time ever, lions and spotted hyenas are pitted against each other in a series of exciting, entertaining and groundbreaking puzzles. It’s a war of wits, but not a battle of eternal enemies, that reveals the secrets of predator success and how living in a complex social group may help to make them smarter. Viewers will witness the different ways that lions and hyenas approach and solve problems, why they need to co-operate, and how this helps them to succeed and survive the critical challenges of their natural environment.


Kevin is famous for his relationship with the magnificent animals that live on the Kevin Richardson Sanctuary in South Africa, where he looks after 27 lions and 16 spotted hyenas, all originally born in captivity at other parks and elsewhere, that he’s now committed to look after for the remainder of their lives.


The ability that I’ve honed over the years is to read into the body language, and one has to be astutely aware of it,” says Kevin Richardson.  “But I never cease to be humbled every time I’m around these powerful creatures.”


“The trust has been built over time but by the same token I never forget that they are wild animals,” he adds. “And this is a lion and something can switch in his brain and I can be a goner…there has been a method to my madness and it has evolved over time.”


Now, Richardson’s relationship with these animals is the key to this groundbreaking project involving University of Miami wildlife biologist Natalia Borrego, who specializes in animal behavior and the link between social and cognitive complexity in diverse animal groups, Dr. Christine Drea, Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke University, and Dr. Craig Packer, Professor of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Minnesota.



“Predator Games” premieres Wednesday, March 4th at 8 p.m. ET/PT

Can lions count? Do low-ranking hyenas purposely deceive dominant pack members? Do dark manes drive lionesses wild with desire, and if so, why? Animal behaviorist Kevin Richardson and some of the world’s leading wildlife experts run a series of experiments on these predators. They test their cooperation and coordination, see how they work in teams to tackle unfamiliar tasks and enemies, and reveal the similarities and differences in these remarkable creatures. Lions and Spotted Hyenas are highly social predators that evolved under the same environmental pressures and share the same habitat, yet have come up with varied solutions to overcome similar challenges in the wild. What does this tell us about the specialist skills and the behavioral flexibility they have developed to survive?


“Predator Challenge” premieres Wednesday, March 11th at 8 p.m. ET/PT

In Part 2 of the series, “Lion Whisperer” Kevin Richardson and a team of wildlife experts are handing out the final exams to their students. Viewers will see up close how the Welgedacht Game Reserve’s lions and hyenas measure up to tests designed to explore their ability to learn, recognize, and hunt in new and unfamiliar settings. Each puzzle is designed to test a specific aspect of behavior. How important is sense of smell to the lions and hyenas and what information do they gather from it? Witness the last of these remarkable experiments as these apex predators attempt to use a mirror maze to their advantage, play a numbers game deciding what prey to attack and how, and cooperate to survive in their natural environment.

KILLER IQ is a production of Kingdom Films and Smithsonian Channel in association with Animal Planet International and Terra Mater Factual Studios. Virginia Quinn is the director and writer. Charles Poe and David Royle serve as executive producers for Smithsonian Channel.

Smithsonian Channel™, owned by Showtime Networks Inc. and the Smithsonian Institution, is where curiosity lives, inspiration strikes and wonders never cease. This is the place for awe-inspiring stories, powerful documentaries and amazing entertainment across multiple platforms.  Smithsonian Channel combines the storytelling prowess of SHOWTIME® with the unmatched resources and rich traditions of the Smithsonian, to create award-winning programming that shines new light on popular genres such as air and space, history, science, nature, and pop culture. Among the network’s offerings are series including Aerial America, L.A. Frock Stars, Secrets, Mighty Ships, Mighty Planes and Air Disasters, as well as critically-acclaimed specials that include Civil War 360, 9/11: The Heartland Tapes; MLK: The Assassination Tapes and The Day Kennedy Died. Find out more at



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