The Wild Story Of The Most Unlikely Animal & Human Friendship
It’s difficult to think of wild animals as emotional beings with feelings. It’s easier to just think of them as animals that live by instinct.
While it would be foolish to believe that wild animals can be amenable, there are some exceptions, a good example of which is the story of Kiara, the lioness, and her trainer Karam.
A Road Trip to Mexico
Adolfo Karam has always been an adventurous man. As a young chap, he was passionate about wildlife conservation and protection.
The love of helping distressed animals and endangered species fulfilled one of his life goals, and he even worked with animals at a wildlife shelter. However, it was during a trip to Mexico that Karam met his future feline friend for the first time.
Sunset in the Desert
Karam traveled by car with a friend to a wildlife shelter in Mexico. He looked forward to watching the difference in culture and scenery as they drove from the US to Mexico.
Around late afternoon, Karam and his friend had just driven out of a service station and headed toward the desert. The duo passed a scenic cliff and stopped briefly to take in the beautiful sights of nature.
We See Ourselves in Nature
While his friend looked into the horizon, Karam observed a small animal not far away from where they had parked.
He had a hunch of what it was but decided to move closer and observe the creature from a safe distance. By sheer luck, Karam happened to have stumbled on a famished lion cub in the desert.
Saving a Fierce but Needy Creature
It would most likely have perished if Karam had left the lion cub in the desert. His travel mate would have been glad if Karam had looked the other way and left the cub to fate, and he told Karam that riding in the same car with a lion triggers his goosebumps.
Against all odds, Karam took the cub with him on the journey and nurtured it back to health. He then brought the cub back to the US and kept it in the shelter where he worked.
He Named Her Kiara
After a while, circumstances required Karam to leave his job at the wildlife shelter. But he wasn’t leaving just his job, but also a friend of over two years.
Since Karam was the one that brought the cub to the shelter, he was allowed to have oversight of her. Karam would later name her Kiara, after a lioness in The Lion King.
Missing Her BFF
After Karam left, Kiara could tell that something was out of place. The new trainer that took care of her could sense her coldness towards him. One thing was clear: Kiara wanted her best friend back.
Unfortunately, she had no say in who would be tending to her. Many years passed, and eventually, she got used to having someone else as her trainer.
A Cub No More
It wasn’t until several years after Karam left that the winds of life would blow Karam in the direction of the wildlife shelter again. After all that time, he had not forgotten about his unconventional friend.
However, Kiara was no longer the cute, fluffy, adorable lion cub he adopted several years ago. She was now a fully grown lioness with mighty jaws, deadly paws, and several pounds of muscle at her disposal.
A Visit to Town
Karam needed to visit the town where he once resided and decided to pay a visit to the wildlife shelter. He wouldn’t give up the opportunity to see Kiara again for anything in the world, even if it was just from a distance.
So, two mornings after his return, Karam got dressed and drove to the shelter. It had been a while, and the shelter had hired a new coordinator.
Would She Remember Him?
Karam was mindful enough to ring up the new coordinator and give a heads-up for his visit. Kiara was not the only lioness in the shelter; there have always been multiple lions in their care.
However, when Karam arrived, it wasn’t difficult for him to identify his now-grown friend, but he couldn’t tell if she remembered him. So, he was cautious enough to only look on from afar.
A True Friend Never Forgets
Biologists have come to discover that lions kept in enclosures or reserves tend to get used to humans who visit them regularly.
However, that research finding does not include several years after not seeing the said human. Interestingly, Kiara remembered, though faintly. She could tell a member of her lion pride was close by.
Identifying a Close Kin
Wild animals, particularly those of the cat family, are known for having an acute sense of smell. Also, no matter how big, cats are stealthy and are experts at sneaking up on their prey.
Shortly after Karam arrived at the shelter, Kiara got up and started sniffing the air, even long before she saw him. Then, Karam broke the ice by calling her name.
The Wildlife Shelter Coordinator Played It Safe
Kiara let out a roar at the sight of her former trainer. However, the shelter coordinator and other members of staff who looked on eagerly could not decipher what the roar meant at first.
Though initially worried about the reunion, the coordinator finally allowed Karam and Kiara to have personal contact after so many years apart. First, the team had to isolate the lioness in a separate cage. While Kiara showed signs of knowing Karam, they couldn’t trust the other lions in the pack.
Communication is Key
The average human would jump, then likely scamper for safety after hearing a ferocious roar from an adult lion.
But a lion trainer like Karam was used to those roars already, so much so that he could tell a threatening one from a friendly call. Karam interpreted Kiara’s roar as friendly and decided to proceed into the cage.
A Joyous Reunion
Their story is similar to a child separated from their parents at a tender age. Even after several years of absence, the child is likely to remember the binding affection.
As soon as the gate to the cage was lifted, Kiara strode up in Karam’s direction; it was an enrapturing moment of reunion. The lioness was initially calm but lost grip of herself once she got up close.
Just Like Old Times
Memories of how she played and fooled around with her trainer as a cub must have flooded her mind. As soon as she caught sight of Karam, she lept at him.
Before anyone could intervene, the pair was on the floor in an ecstatic embrace. One can imagine Kiara reliving the memories of when she was still just a cub.
Jolly Old Friends
Karam was jerked back to the reality that his friend was no longer a baby. Kiara had grown so big that she easily knocked this 200 lb man off his feet.
Other staff members looked on in shock as the two old friends rolled around on the grass. It was apparent that the duo was trying to recreate old memories.
How This Unique Bond Was Built
Karam had taken care of Kiara since she was a cub and saw him as the alpha male of her pack.
When Karam was still an active lion trainer at the wildlife shelter, he had complete oversight of Kiara’s development. He fed her, played with her, and taught her the basics of independent life.
Mimicking Wildlife in an Enclosure
Despite living in an enclosure, Karam made Kiara’s experience close to one of a lioness living in the wild.
He fed her game, groomed her, and played with her. Sometimes, they would spend entire afternoons together, reclined in the shade of a tree. Karam knew he would one day have to leave, and Karia may eventually get released into the wild.
Since he knew that a day might come when his lioness cub would be released back into the wild, Karam had to make her feel like she had lived there all her life.
Karam exposed young Kiara to a regimen of physical activities to build her muscles and agility, and his efforts paid off.
Kiara is Still Growing
Kiara had indeed grown much bigger than the last time Karam saw her. However, she still had some major development ahead of her.
Unfortunately, the facilities available at the wildlife shelter are not sufficient for the growth of young lions and lionesses.
A Restful Afternoon With a Long-Lost Friend
After not seeing each other for many years, the two friends spent a restful afternoon together. The staff members who witnessed their reunion were amazed at how quickly they were able to bridge the gap and have fun like old times.
Lionesses, like every other cat, love to be groomed. So, after all the hugging and patting, Kiara made to pull off Karam’s trousers. As far as she was concerned, Karam was a member of the pride that had just returned from a long journey.
Next, the Trademark Nibbling
People who have domestic cats would be familiar with their nibbling habits. Interestingly, they seldom practice this bonding ritual with a stranger. Mildly nibbling on a part of your body is a cat’s way of showing affection.
Soon enough, Kiara started nibbling on Karam’s arm. An uninitiated visitor to the shelter would have thought a fatal disaster was looming.
Catching Some Breath After A Sprint
Karam and Kiara were overjoyed when they finally met after being separated for several years. Like two restless puppies, the duo soon wore each other out.
For the rest of the afternoon, they both sat on the grass to chill out. Kiara was almost certain that her adopted father had returned to stay.
It's Hard to Say Goodbye
It came time for Karam to say goodbye to Kiara and get some other things done. For example, he needed to discuss Kiara’s performance status with the Coordinator of the Wildlife Shelter.
But Kiara had other plans. The lioness held on to his leg to prevent him from leaving. However, Karam was able to release himself from her grip successfully. But he would be sure to revisit his friend.
A Pivotal Chat With the Shelter Coordinator
Just before leaving the shelter, Karam had a chat with the coordinator and got some shocking information.
Kiara would soon be moved to a Wildlife Foundation in Mexico City. While the news meant another dose of separation for the two friends, it would benefit the young lioness. According to the coordinator, the foundation has an expansive reserve that would give animals in its care a feel of living in the wild.
An Inevitable Migration
Karam had grown so fond of Kiara that it was difficult to let her go. However, knowing that the new facility would help the now-grown lioness smoothly transition into life in the wild made Karam fully support the decision.
When it was time to move Kiara to her new home, Karam went along and personally delivered her to her new caregivers.
Carefully Passing On the Buck
However, Karam did not return home immediately after arriving in Mexico City. Instead, he decided to stay back and help Kiara adapt to her new environment.
Karam also helped the new caregivers at the foundation understand the lioness’ quirks and peculiarities. He intended to spend just two days at the enclosure but ended up staying for a week.
Different Realities for Two Different Friends
While Adolfo Karam was perfectly aware of the benefits of Kiara moving to this new facility, the lioness found it a bit difficult to adjust to her new home.
So, Karam came with all of Kiara’s toys and belongings to help her have something familiar after he left.
For the Best of Friends, Goodbyes Are Never Forever
Karam was happy to leave Kiara at the new facility. Just before leaving, he caught a glimpse of her already playing and interacting with the other lions and lionesses in her enclosure.
Seeing Kiara was all set up for a fulfilling adulthood, Karam walked out of the facility and prepared to leave Mexico City.
The Occasional Intersection of Parallel Lines
Karam returned to his lion training responsibilities in the US. And while he remains emotionally attached to Kiara, the other animals back home equally need his expertise.
The next time Karam reached out to the handlers at the New Mexico wildlife foundation, he was told Kiara was doing very well. They were also nice enough to send video recordings of his lioness friend.