HENDERSON - Have you ever dreamed of being a lion trainer? Now, you can at the Lion Habitat Ranch south of Las Vegas. You don't need a chair and whip to help tame the forty big cats at the ranch - just a lot of love. That's the secret for owner Keith Evans who has spent four decades raising his big babies.
"Their personalities all vary. They're individuals. Some are more loving than others," he said. "They have a trust that you have to build up, and that's mainly what we work on."
While it isn't recommended you snuggle up to the lions like Evans, trainers for the day get a real taste of caring for this pride of pampered stars.
"What they get to do is exactly what a trainer does. While you think it's glamorous, it's not. It's mostly taking care of the animals and making sure they have a good life," Evans said.
The cats' five-star treatment at the ranch includes air conditioned pens, heated lion houses, five-pound logs of high-grade horsemeat and hot baths.
"They don't need this to survive," Evans said. "We just do it so it's nicer for them... just spoil them."
Working with two year-old Dash in the outdoor arena is a thrilling experience. With Dash attached to a cable and two trainers running the show, a would-be trainer can feel completely safe. That doesn't mean you don't feel a rush of adrenaline when staring a hungry lion in the eyes, while he's eyeballing the steak on a stick in your hands.
Soon, the cats will be sharing their domain with visitors. Keith needs to help pay for the lifestyle these beasts have become accustomed to, but he also wants to leave a legacy.
"That people actually realize that they're worth saving. In 15 years, they think all of the lions in Africa will be gone… that they came out and said, ‘This is not something I should be happy to go kill,'" Evans said.
The trainer for a day experience costs $800 for four hours. You can also take a private tour for $200. Evans is also planning to open the habitat to the general public on a regular schedule.