Lion Ark Veterinarian Dies

It is with profound sadness that we announce the death of Dr. Mel Richardson, at just 63 years of age; a dear friend, colleague and the principal veterinarian in Lion Ark

Dr. Mel Richardson 1950-2014
Mel during filming of Lion Ark.  Farewell Dr. Mel and thank you.

Mel during filming of Lion Ark. Farewell Dr. Mel and thank you.

Lion Ark
veterinarian and a dear friend and colleague, Dr. Mel Richardson has died this week, at just 63 years of age.

Known to many as simply “Dr. Mel,” he was the overseeing veterinarian on several Animal Defenders International (ADI) rescues – including Operation Lion Ark.  After turning his back on the captive wildlife industry he became a leading voice for animals, not only as a practicing veterinarian but also providing expert testimony and speaking in the media and in Congress.

Everyone involved in Lion Ark is in a state of shock at this tragic news.  It is the loss of not only an important voice for animals, but also a good friend.

Jan Creamer, President and founder of ADI says: “We are devastated by the loss of one of the key members of our team.  Dr. Mel Richardson has played a vital role in both our animal rescues and our work creating awareness about the treatment of animals.  His practical veterinary skills, immense knowledge and articulate voice will be sorely missed.

“We worked together in some of the most difficult and high pressure circumstances and it was always a pleasure to be with him.  Not just his obvious skills but his humor and good nature.  We have also lost a great friend and colleague, someone who was at our side through both thick and thin.”

Dr. Mel Richardson died of heart failure just a few weeks before his 64th birthday.

He had been suffering from poor health and heart problems for the past year and was forced to drop out of the Lion Ark US premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival in October.  However, he was able to join us the following month at the Sun & Sand Film & Music Festival in Mississippi where Lion Ark won Best Documentary – seeing for the first time the record of his part in that incredible mission in Bolivia.

Together we relived those dramatic times in Bolivia and looked forward to the enforcement operation planned for Peru in 2014.  Mel said he was determined to get healthy enough to be part of the operation and in December was telling doctors and nurses “You need to get me fit to go and save animals in Peru.”  Tragically it was not to be.

It is not just his remarkable expertise that will be sorely missed but also his calm “under-fire,” good nature, and his wonderful sense of humor.

Vastly experienced, with over 40 years working with captive wildlife, Mel had initially been employed by zoos and the captive wildlife industry before turning his back on that world and dedicating his life to saving and protecting animals.

In Lion Ark, Mel noted of the operation to rescue all of Bolivia’s circus animals: “It’s probably the proudest moment in my 42 years working with captive animals, to be able to be involved in this.”

He acknowledged his regret for his life in the captive wildlife industry and in one of the most moving moments in the film, Mel says, with his eyes filled with tears:  “What motivates me now, was all the 42 years I didn’t do anything and all the, the um, suffering that I’ve seen with captive wild animals. At least, thanks to ADI and thanks to others, I have an opportunity to make amends, that’s what motivates me.”

That motivation saw him use all of his knowledge and experience with captive wildlife to help end their suffering.  As well as working with ADI, he worked with PAWS, PETA and animal protectionists throughout the US becoming a hugely important voice for the voiceless.

That voice and commitment have been lost far too soon.  We will miss you Dr. Mel.

In memoriam
ADI and Lion Ark are setting up memorial pages for Dr. Mel Richardson. Please email any comments you would like included to

Dr. Mel Richardson remembered by ADI