5 Modern Day Beastmasters Who You Won't Believe Aren't Dead
When we see, say, a slavering lion staring us down and licking its chops, most of our brains are wired to instantly send a "Release!" signal directly to our bladders. But as we've mentioned before, there are a select few people in this world who instead get an overwhelming urge to scwatch da widdle wion under his widdle chin. And the lion totally lets them do it.
WARNING: DO NOT TRY ANY OF THIS SHIT YOURSELF.
Ocean Ramsey -- Great White Shark Rider
Apparently 27-year-old scuba instructor/surfer/bikini model/aquatic superhero Ocean Ramsey (no shit, that's her real name) never saw Jaws.
For some people, cage diving with great whites is thrilling. The really bold and/or batshit insane might even crank it up a notch by abandoning the cage altogether and free diving with the world's biggest, deadliest fish. But even free diving isn't enough for Ocean Ramsey: She rides them. She rides great white sharks and says it's "quite a rush."
Ocean swims without any protection at all. No shark suit, no spear ... no bat-shark repellent, even. She likens it to the first time she ever encountered a horse, which, when you really think about it, makes no sense at all because a horse will very rarely tear off your limbs and swallow them whole.
And is generally not capable of eating an entire horse, itself.
Keep in mind, great whites are very curious animals that regularly test bite things that they find interesting. It's not that they're even necessarily hungry; they just interact with their world by biting it. They use their mouths to gain tactile information about their environment in the same way we use our hands -- only our hands aren't made out of serrated death-razors.
In other words, they get to know you by eating you.
But Ocean Ramsey fearlessly hitches rides on the fins of these mindless killing machines in hopes of raising awareness of their status as an endangered species, and she hasn't been test bitten yet. Not even a nibble. Maybe they're not so mindless, after all -- it's almost as if they know she's on their side. Still ... no offense, Ocean, but we're going to go ahead and call you a freak of nature and keep right on assuming that the way another stunningly beautiful shark expert once described great white encounters is more accurate -- namely, all black eyes and teeth and screaming and the ocean running red.
Werner Freund -- the Alpha Wolf
When their twilight years approach, most people occupy themselves with things like retirement and pondering whether or not pajamas are acceptable evening wear. Others continue right on with leading their literal wolf pack as the reigning alpha male.
Years ago former paratrooper Werner Freund left his German Special Forces battalion and took a job working as a gardener at the Stuttgart Zoo. Before long circumstances found him as the primary caregiver of the zoo's toothiest predators, and he became especially fond of the wolves -- so much so that he was inspired to make an enthusiastic appeal to the mayor of his hometown for financial backing to establish a sanctuary for them. Freund was either adequately persuasive or effectively crazy-eyed enough to convince the mayor to grant his request, and public money was allocated to create Wolfspark Werner Freund in 1972.
Would you turn down a request for money from this man?
Freund believed that there was only one way to truly connect with the creatures that were now his responsibility: "I had to become a wolf to bond with the wolves. That is the only way to gain their trust." And become a wolf he did, by not only living among them and establishing himself as their leader, but also by communicating with them in the language of moon howling and by shoving his face into the bloody remains of freshly killed deer. Or whatever he and the boys feel like disemboweling that day.
Only the cutest and most wide-eyed of orphaned baby deer are good enough for his beloved pack.
You might suppose that such behavior would end in a comical, fast-motion chase through the woods with Freund being pursued by muscular men in white uniforms carrying oversized nets, but all that precarious time spent as a "wolfmensch" was just his particular way of becoming a pioneer in German wolf conservation. Now in his 80s, first-time visitors to the park can still sense the gravitational pull emanating from the lower-middle section of Freund's lederhosen as he goes about his daily routine and "walks freely among 29 wolves, wearing an old parachute smock reeking of animal fat and blood."
This photo is completely unrelated to the recent rash of hitchhiker disappearances.
Marlice van Vuuren -- Cheetah Teaser
Immediately stop whatever you're doing and watch this video of Marlice van Vuuren fucking with some wild cheetahs:
In case you didn't watch it, that's a video of a young, attractive blonde walking right into the center of a ring of wild cheetahs, because what a normal person might call "surrounded by spotted death-by-shredding," Marlice van Vuuren calls "Tuesday."
Everyone else in the entire world is a pussy by comparison.
Occasionally she looks as if she's about to freak out and run, but that's just Marlice taking advantage of her in-depth knowledge of the cheetahs' natural instincts -- truth is, she knows exactly what they're going to do. She's just teasing them, trying to get them to lunge at her. And when they do, she laughs. Then, once she's done screwing around with their heads, she feeds them bloody scraps of flesh from her bare hands, because of course she does.
Her other hobby is counting her fingers.
So just how does one become so intimately familiar with the world's fastest land predator? Well, Marlice grew up in Namibia, where her parents converted their one-time cattle farm into the Harnas Wildlife Foundation, a place where they took in injured wild animals and nursed them back to health. Marlice literally grew up alongside lions and other creatures that would make most kids shit their pants if they ever encountered them outside of a zoo. She also spent a goodly chunk of her formative years with the native San Bushmen, and is one of the few white people on Earth who can speak their language. Today, she's got her own place, the Naankuse Wildlife Sanctuary, where she carries on the noble cause of protecting Namibia's wildlife.
A task that we hope entails sicking her cheetahs on poachers.
We have no doubt whatsoever that Marlice could use her ability to subjugate these noble beasts of the savanna to get down to some serious supervilliany if she so chose, but we're sure she's a perfectly nice gal with only moderate world-taking-over tendencies. Still, before you single guys out there get overly enamored with this beautiful blonde bush goddess, you should probably watch this video of her happily hate-stabbing a gazelle to death:
"You. Forgot. My. Birthday?!"
Oh, and anyway ... she's happily married.
Mark Dumas -- Polar Bear Man
Mark Dumas is the only man in the world who can swim with a polar bear and live to tell the tale. Well, he can do it in Canada, anyway -- despite the fact that he has a grizzly, a pack of wolves, and a few big cats at his home in California (Mark trains animals for movies and TV), the U.S. government won't let him bring Agee, his 800-pound pet polar bear, into America. Perhaps it's due to the fact that polar bears are one of the only animals that will actively hunt humans. Or maybe they're just afraid Coke's stock will plummet once the beast inevitably escapes and goes on a bloody rampage.
Hey, did we mention that Agee's a celebrity? Here she is appearing in a car commercial:
Adorable, right? Mark's raised Agee since she was a cub ... but she's not tame, because bears cannot ever be truly tamed. He freely admits that Agee would probably eat anyone else who got in the pool with her.
Pictured: not eating, we guess?
But she's been raised by humans all her life! She's probably just a big softy, right? Yeah, the same could have been said about Rocky, a hand-raised grizzly bear that sunk his teeth into a trainer's neck back in 2008. You might remember Rocky from his role as Precious in Will Ferrell's Semi-Pro. That's right: Precious ripped his trainer's throat out for no discernible reason. And polar bears are just a bigger, less sociable version of their southern cousins.
On top of that, Agee is very possessive. She gets jealous of anyone other than Mark's wife. On set, females can't speak directly to Mark -- they have to talk to his wife, who then relays the message. So Mark not only trains one of the world's greatest murder beasts, he's apparently also in a semi-exclusive relationship with it.
Burglars are not a problem.
Tippi Degre -- the Wild Child
Some kids have fantastic imaginary friends growing up. Others have parents who allow them to leave the safety of their vehicle to play with a quite non-fantastical leopard:
That's Tippi Degre, born in Namibia in 1990 to French photographers Alain Degre and Sylvie Robert and named after Tippi Hedren, the actress best known for being devoured by crazed birds. This Tippi was raised as a "real-life Mowgli": Her only playground until age 10 was the African bush, complete with all the classic jungle animals for playmates -- including a best friend who just so happened to be a leopard. By the way, the leopard's name was J&B (just like the brand of Scotch), which might go a long way toward explaining all of this.
"What did we tell you about drawing on the walls? Now you go play with predators until you've learned your lesson!"
Now we're not going to try and convince you that all of the animals Tippi can be seen cavorting with in these pictures were completely wild -- some of them were rescued orphans or came from some other type of captive situation. Her parents were professional photographers, after all, and probably took advantage of every opportunity to put their highly photogenic kid to good use.
This is just a warm-up while they prepare the suit of bees.
However, it's difficult to discount the obvious ease with which Tippi interacts with creatures that could effortlessly transform her into pate. As her mother describes it, "She was in the mindset of these animals. She believed the animals were her size and her friends. She was using her imagination to live in these different conditions. She had no fear."
"Prepare to joust!"
Grown-up Tippi is a bestselling author living in Paris, where she presumably gave up her loincloth long ago (except for special occasions, of course). Namibia is never far from her heart, though, and she once had an opportunity to return there to make a series of documentaries for Discovery Channel. We like to think that she only took the job as an excuse to catch up with some old pals.
You know what they say: a true friend never forgets.
Related Reading: Need a little more Beastmastering today? This article will teach you how to BE one. Tickle a trout, rub a shark's nose and then read about more incredible Beastmasters. Like the Lion Whisperer and Gilberto Shedden, the man with a half-ton crocodile pet. Complete your mastery of the animal kingdom by learning how to attack an animal with a bicycle chain. You terrible, terrible person.