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Big cats roar a welcome as Lion Man takes charge

Last updated 05:00 17/04/2012
Lion Man
FAIRFAX NZ
WELCOME HOME: Craig Busch with one of the Lions at the Kingdom of Zion wildlife park during Easter weekend.

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Craig "The Lion Man" Busch is back with his big cats, at the renamed Kingdom of Zion wildlife park in Kamo.

The park officially opened last weekend, to the pride and joy of Mr Busch.

"To be back here is unreal.

"The minute I did get here, they [big cats] realised Dad was home. They must have roared for about two days.

"It is like a lion orchestra  an orchestra that is absolutely beautiful."

The park was bought by Zion Wildlife Kingdom in January, with the new owners promising Mr Busch would return.

Mr Busch set up the park in 2002, handed control to his mother Patricia Busch in 2006 and had his employment terminated two years later.

After being away from the park and its remaining 35 lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopards and servals for three years, Mr Busch is glad to be back.

"I live for these animals," he says.

"My whole life is used up on these guys because that is what I believe in."

Mr Busch has confirmed another reality TV series is likely and he is in talks with prospective broadcasters.

He found worldwide fame and acclaim as star of The Lion Man television series, which gave big cat fans an insight into his animal handling skills and life behind the scenes at the Zion wildlife park.

While filming ceased on The Lion Man in the mid-2000s, repeats of the show are still being played in more than 100 countries around the world.

"There will be another Lion Man show  there will be quite a few," Mr Busch says.

A film crew has already been on site, filming Mr Busch's interaction with his big cats and scores of fans who attended the Kingdom of Zion's official reopening over Easter weekend.

During his three-year absence from the park, he also completed some filming in the wild in South Africa.

"I am going to do filming for the rest of my life," he say.

"I didn't like it when I started years ago. But now I enjoy it. I think it is a necessary thing to help educate and teach people around the world.

"If people can learn from that, that will actually put a smile on my face."

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- Whangarei Leader

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