Cameron and Zabu (Photo Generously Supplied by Big Cat Rescue)

They never should have met- at least in the wild, they never could have met. One is predominantly from Africa and the other from Asia. But when cruelty prevails, so, too, does this. These two unlikely friends are none other than Cameron and Zabu, a magnificent male lion and a female Siberian tigress that have made their way to the haven of Big Cat Rescue after a series of unfortunate events. Although their tales may seem adventurous they were much more inglorious for creatures of their stature- or for any creature, for that matter. 

Cameron and Zabu were features at a roadside zoo. They were accustomed to a life of a cage. Their lives were not their own, and worse still, they were kept locked together in the hopes that they would breed and produce a white Liger. Why would someone want a hybrid such as a Liger? Well, the answer is two-fold: Ligers sound catchy, new, and novel. Thus whoever owns such a unique hybrid could really “rake in the chips”. Other than for monetary gains, owning a Liger also allows for the owner to keep a wild cat that doesn’t fall into the American legal restrictions specified distinctly for tigers or lions. They thus can claim that a Liger is neither a tiger nor a lion and thus does not fall into the same category in order for laws governing lions/tigers to apply. With fewer restrictions on Ligers, people who own them can do with them what they want. Oh, the legal system…

So an unnatural crossing was about to be made between these beautiful creatures until suddenly the zoo owner died. Money became slim for those trying to keep the zoo alive and open, and the animals were the ones to suffer. Cameron, for instance, lost over 200 lbs due to starvation! Finally the roadside zoo completely collapsed, leaving the zoo keepers uncertain of what they were going to do with a lion and tigress on their hands. The animals were growing sick and were being doomed to a slow death. Thankfully, they found Big Cat Rescue to lean their paws upon.

But BCR had to move fast to accommodate the couple who clearly were not going to be separated. The centre built a three-acre “cat-a-tat” (a specifically designed enclosure for the cats) to encompass enough space for the two of them to live comfortably and happily together for the rest of their days. But this didn’t alleviate the problem of producing Liger cubs. The only way to do that would be to neuter Cameron and/or spay Zabu. Neutering Cameron would come at a cost to the lion: loss of testosterone would result in a loss of mane and reduce the colouration of the remaining hair. His mane was too stunning to lose, and no one wanted his demeanor to possibly change from the procedure either. So instead they gave Cameron a vasectomy. To be doubly certain that they would not breed hybrids, Zabu was also spayed.

The first thing Zabu did when she arrived at the haven was dunk herself into water and clean the stains of mud that encrusted her fur and irritated her skin. Both of them struggled for life as they slowly had to acclimate to eating well again. But little by little veterinarians and staff from Big Cat Rescue rejuvenated them. Their muscle came back, and their demeanor sharpened. Cameron returned to being a powerful lion who prefers to sleep during the day when Zabu doesn’t pester him to play. And Zabu returned to being a playful “kitten” by throwing and chasing her big “Red Planet” ball and insisting that Cameron wake up to join her fun.

Today you would look at these beauties playing together and never know the struggle they went through to be where they are. Although perhaps every creature (including us humans) also has had to go through a fair amount of rough bouts to get to where they are, it can certainly be said that Cameron and Zabu take the cake in the adversity challenge.

It was the support from Big Cat Rescue that led them to this smooth sailing, but it was their “unlikely” friendship that kept them sailing.

I encourage you guys to check out Big Cat Rescue’s link to the right of my links to learn more about what they do. For those of you big cat enthusiasts, you can even offer your time to volunteer! They can always use a helping hand, and the cats would love the positive energy from Gabby Wild followers 😉

More to come as exciting adventures and “cattails” (and I’m not talking about the plant) await to be told!

Stay Wild,

Gabby Wild