On Saturday evening August 5, 2017, the preserve lost one of its most beloved and well known ambassadors, Kazuma the Brave. Kazuma to the best of our knowledge was approximately 19 years old. He came to live at Tigers For Tomorrow on January 7th, 2012.
Six years ago, on July 4, 2011 Tigers For Tomorrow received a call from a group of animal advocates in Guatemala asking if we would help them rescue an old broken down lion that had been housed in the back of a pickup truck with a traveling circus for what was thought to be at least 10 years. Little did we know at that time not only was our team about to take on one of the most important and difficult relocations of a big cat in the history of Tigers For Tomorrow, but we were all preparing to embark on one of the biggest and most important life lessons we would ever receive.
Kazuma was Brave, he exhibited courageous endurance throughout most of his life, yet he was a master of forgiveness. Kazuma was the first big cat in the country of Guatemala to be confiscated by CONAP for abuse and neglect. Following his confiscation, he was housed at The Aurora Zoo until he was healthy enough to travel to the US. When our team first met Kazuma at The Aurora Zoo in Guatemala City, we wondered if he was going to be strong enough to flourish once back at the preserve. The Zoo had worked for months to put weight on Kazuma and get him physically healthy enough to make his journey to the US. But emotionally he was broke, a hollow old lion broken down after years of being exhibited in a cage welded in the back of a small pickup truck with barely enough room to walk around. Kazuma and Wilbur became friends instantly. It was subtle, but a soft spark that lit up in his eyes as Wilbur began to interact with him, and work with him to load into the travel transport without sedation. It was the glimmer of hope that our team needed to believe that we had a chance to make this lion whole again, we knew it wouldn’t be easy but we were committed to see this thru.
Kazuma began his new life here at the preserve courageously, he fit right in immediately. With the love and individual care the staff gave him daily he flourished and became one of the preserve guest favorite ambassadors. He was a bit snarky at times and often made us laugh with his funny personality. Kazuma could brighten all of our days with his humor. He loved to race the keepers to his holding area at feeding time, and liked to show all of our guest how he truly was a lion, when he would comically hunt me as soon as I turned my back to leave his area. What made Kazuma amazing was that he never held onto to any of his past, he was willing to be loved and he loved us and his life here at the preserve.
Kazuma is proof that when a great many humans join together for something they love and believe in, miracles can happen. The efforts to relocate Kazuma from Guatemala reached far and wide, prior to Kazuma coming to the U.S. he touched the hearts of many. Fundraising efforts became a community effort, as children at Crossville Elementary helped raise funds, he became their mascot, as did about 3000 individual Supporters and multiple business such as Dekalb Farmer Coop, James and Co. and Stephens Pipe and Steel. We are grateful to all who have touched and been touched by Kazuma, especially our friends in Guatemala that worked so hard to make sure he would have a second chance at life.
When you truly love a being with all your heart you never have to say good bye. Kazuma will be in our hearts forever. . I think he taught us all an important lesson about forgiveness. There will be a Celtic Cross placed by our lion sign in memory of Kazuma.