Could these two brothers, who crossed the world to get home to Africa, be on the brink of being reunited?
Born in a circus in Guatemala, they lived their lives at either end of a series of cages on wheels. When Guatemala banned circuses, Tomas was handed to a zoo and Kimba remained with the circus. It turned out to be a lucky break for Kimba who, a few months later, was rescued by ADI as we enforced the ban. Then, Tomas had a lucky break – the zoo decided there was no place for him and with 25 minutes notice, Tomas was dropped at the ADI Temporary Rescue Unit. The boys flew to Africa and the ADI Wildlife Sanctuary.
Over the past months we have been working to unite them, moving them into Augie Habitat where they rotate between the main habitat with its little woodland, and the feeding enclosure. Following our successful introduction of David and Easy earlier this year, Jessica Burkhart from the University of Minnesota is using a nasal spray of a natural hormone, oxytocin, often called the “love hormone” to help them relax. Oxytocin is involved in childbirth, breast-feeding and is associated with feelings of empathy, trust and relationship-building – it is when lions rub heads, for example. Kimba and Tomas have been in their house, in separate rooms (walls are metal mesh), eating alongside each other. They get treats and enrichment from Jessica and the lions seem to barely notice the squirt up their nose while they are distracted with a treat. This means they are getting enjoyable, relaxed moments in each other’s company. To avoid confusion – this is not a drug and is not related in any way to drugs with “oxy” in the name!
Initially we planned for Kimba to live with half-sister Sasha. However, Sasha endured years of pain due to a horrific declawing operation in the circus and, despite a successful operation to removed diseased bone and replace it with a titanium implant, she continues to limp, although not in pain. Her tendons are not fully stretched and it could take a long time to improve. All this makes her feel vulnerable and defensive, so she prefers her own space. If it is successful with Tomas and Kimba, we will move Sasha alongside the boys to maintain contact. We hope one day, we can find a suitable friend for Sasha.