For his latest Animal Planet series, Into the Pride, zoologist and predator expert Dave Salmoni spent six months alone in the African bush in an attempt to tame a rogue pride of highly aggressive "problem lions" for the sake of ecotourist safety and the creatures' own survival. Think that sounds like a daunting expedition? Try interviewing Salmoni without falling prey to his hunky good looks and cuddly Canadian charm. As an adorable 10-week-old lion cub named Shera sucks contentedly on his finger, the 33-year-old "big cat trainer" shows us how he whips gay fans into submission.
Advocate.com: Have you ever seen Mean Girls?
Dave Salmoni: Yeah. Wait, I mean, no! [Laughs] OK, you caught me.
Then you'll remember how it illustrates parallels between the African jungle and the high school jungle — survival of the fiercest and all that. Having spent so much time in the wild with the lions, did you observe any interesting parallels to human society?
There are so many parallels between these animals and people. I recently wrote a Cosmo article about 10 lessons you can learn from the wild. My dating life seems a lot like a big male lion.
Are we talking sex here?
I wish I had the sex life of a male lion. He's got, what, 10 women who all don't mind sharing? Unfortunately, living in the bush alone in a tent does not bode well for my personal life.
How did you deal with loneliness out there?
At times I really welcomed it. I love being with people, but I like being alone a lot. On good days when things were going well and the lions were accepting me, I didn't even notice it. I just appreciated being around the animals, the sunset, sunrise, the fire, camping. But on the days those cats would try to kill me, when they didn't want a relationship with me? Those were the days I'd wake up and think, What in the hell am I doing here? They don't want me here. I should be home dating and hanging out with my buddies. But I don't go into deep depressions when I'm lonely. I just recognize it, go for a long walk, find some giraffe to hang out with, or play with some rhinos.
Did you read any good books?
Lots. I'm a big nonfiction reader, so I read lots of autobiographies and scientific journals. I ran out of them by week 2, so my director sent me the first fiction books I'd read in years. I read lots of books where, you know, one guy takes on the whole world — spy-type books where a superhero comes in, saves the world, and gets the girl. A wonderful book I read twice while I was out there was Anthony Kiedis's Scar Tissue. I also read Long Way Down, which is about Ewan McGregor's little motorcycle trip. I was considering getting a motorcycle for a long time, and I just got it recently.