It goes without saying that you should be careful around lions and other wild animals, but that doesn’t mean that they are un-feeling, cold-blooded killers. Frikkie Von Solms, a 69-year-old lion caretaker in Southern Africa, knows this perfectly well: he has spent the last 11 raising Zion, a gentle, tender and loving African lion.

Zion was born in captivity to a lioness named Simba but had to be separated due to fears that his father would kill him. Growing up with Von Solms, Zion has turned into a little softie – when Von Solms goes for a walk with him, he takes his shoes off because their noise bothers the big cat.

It was a once in a lifetime experience to grow up with him and learn and live with him through all of the stages of being a lion,” Von Solms told the Daily Mail. “People talk about lions like they are just lions but they have personalities, they have humour and laugh. Zion is a gentle giant. He has never attacked humans and I trust him completely.

(h/t: dailymail)

Zion was separated from his mother as a cub for fears that his father would kill him

He has spent all 11 years of his life growing up with Frikkie the caretaker

Zion is such a softie that he prefers Frikkie walk without his shoes because noise bothers him

The 11-year-old lion and 69-year-old caretaker have become the best of friends

“Zion is a gentle giant. He has never attacked humans and I trust him completely”

“It was a once in a lifetime experience to grow up with him and learn and live with him through all of the stages of being a lion”

“People talk about lions like they are just lions but they have personalities, they have humour and laugh”

The two are so close that they share a truck and a bed

Frikkie says he has raised 19 lions, tigers and cheetahs, but says that Zion “is special because of the bond we share. I learned so much from him”

Sometimes, Frikkie even holds Zion’s tail affectionately

Lions can be dangerous, but Frikkie and Zion prove that this is not always the case

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