Boy, 5, welcomes back 'kindred spirit' tiger to Norfolk home
- Credit: Liam Austin
A "much-loved" tiger has been welcomed back to his Norfolk home by his "kindred spirit" - a five-year-old boy.
Kuzma, Banham Zoo's resident male tiger, had been temporarily relocated across the border at Africa Alive, in Kessingland, while refurbishment of his enclosure took place.
The Amur tiger's return was marked with a ribbon cutting ceremony, led by five-year-old tiger enthusiast Freddie Bagge and his family.
The youngster was invited to the ceremony after being spotted by the Zoological Society of East Anglia's CEO Claudia Roberts, who saw the boy becoming upset at the empty enclosure on a recent visit.
Freddie said: "I felt really excited to be invited because I love tigers and I got to be one of the first people to see Kuzma come out of his enclosure for the first time.
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"I like tigers because they run really fast, they are my favourite colour orange and they can eat 300 hamburgers all in one go," a fact remembered from a keeper talk at the zoo two years earlier.
Charlotte Bagge, Freddie's mother, said: "On hearing tigers could eat the equivalent of 300 burgers, Freddie instantly embraced them as kindred spirits and while '300 hamburgers' were duly requested for his own supper that night, he still hasn't managed to beat Kuzma's record - yet."
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The repairs to the enclosure are part of a programme of upgrades taking place at both ZSEA sites following a lifeline Zoo Animals Fund grant of £752,000 by Defra earlier this year.
Ms Roberts said: "When I first met Freddie and saw how sad he was that Kuzma wasn’t in his usual home, I just had to invite him along to be our special guest at the ceremony and see Kuzma explore his newly refurbished enclosure for the first time.
“I was even more delighted when Freddie’s mum said the experience was so magical it would no doubt kindle a lifelong passion for zoology and conservation both with Freddie and his sister Tabitha – even little brother Pip was talking excitedly about tigers.
"For me, that’s exactly what we should be doing.”
Once Kuzma has settled back into his home, the zoo plans to receive a female Amur tiger as part of the European breeding programme, as the tigers, also known as Siberian tigers, are classed an endangered, with only around 500 thought to be left in the wild.