Guatemala Circus Tigers


Male tiger

Born 2017

Rescue from the circus by ADI June 2018
Arrived at Big Cat Rescue November 25, 2019

Relocated to Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge Sept. 28, 2023

Kimba is a male tiger who was rescued from the circus in Guatemala along with two other tigers, Max and Simba. Kimba is the youngest, born sometime in 2017.

They came to us after Guatemala passed a law banning the circus.  Animal Defenders International was a major force behind the passing of the law. The tigers were supposed to have been turned over to authorities.  Instead, Hermanos Ponce Circus went on the run. In June 2018 Animal Defenders International and authorities had found the circus and implemented the rescue mission.


Because tigers are an endangered species we needed in import permit from the US Fish & Wildlife Service to bring them here.  We applied for a permit in August 2018. It took 11 months to obtain the import permit and three more months to obtain an export permit from Guatemalan authorities. The cats finally arrived in November 2019. They were flown into Miami on a cargo plane and our rescue team picked them up at Miami airport and drove them to Tampa.  During the 15 months from our application to their arrival generous donors to Big Cat Rescue helped us fund their care in Guatemala at a temporary facility operated by ADI.

During the handover from the circus to ADI the circus workers started beating Kimba viciously with an iron bar until he bled.  The ADI rescuers intervened to save his life. Kimba was left terrified, with a bleeding leg and mouth.  In circus confinement even such powerful predators are completely at the mercy of their captors. But thanks to the visitors and donors who allow us to provide lifetime care, no one will ever harm Kimba again.

Background Information

February 7, 2018, was the first time Big Cat Rescue heard about the circus tigers in Guatemala. It was a Daily Mail storytelling everyone how a 55-year old man had both his arms ripped off by starving tigers, who ate them as villagers threw rocks and beat the cats with sticks. The circus had been banned in Guatemala thanks to efforts made by Animal Defenders International. The tigers were supposed to have been turned over to authorities, but instead, Ponce Circus, and others all went on the run. On October 29, 2018, we heard that Ponce Circus tigers were still starving, and we asked ADI if they were able to find them.

By November 11, 2018, ADI was able to announce that they had gotten the last 6 tigers out of the Ponce Circus. The big cats were transferred to a temporary rescue camp that Big Cat Rescue helped to fund. Then the laborious process of obtaining export and import permits began.

In all, ADI rescued 6 lions and 15 tigers from the rogue circuses. Big Cat Rescue funded the care for 3 tigers named Kimba, Max, and Simba during this lengthy ordeal. Unfortunately, other sanctuaries had promised to do the same for the other cats, but they never followed through. The remaining cats will go and live in South Africa at the Rescue Center that ADI has built to care for them.

On November 25, 2019, three former circus tigers from Guatemala Rescued by Animal Defenders International, are on their way to Big Cat Rescue!

Kimba’s Last Terrifying Day at the Circus

Text excerpts from ADI’s Facebook post

These pictures are from ADI of Kimba’s last day in a circus in Guatemala and the last beating he would ever receive.

Following the ban, this circus had agreed to surrender nine tigers and two lions but, but was refusing to hand over six of the tigers (ADI successfully rescued them five months later). On the day of the rescue of the three boys, ADI endured abuse, circus workers stealing our tools, and even one, bizarrely, repeatedly exposing himself as they worked. The circus workers’ attempts to persuade frightened Kimba to leave his cage were a disaster; shouting, pushing poles into his cage, and making him panic – poor Kimba had never before left the tiny cage, ADI stepped in and paused the rescue to allow Kimba to calm down.

Later, the circus brought Kimba in a small trailer to the ADI cage for the transfer. Instead of waiting for him to step out in his own time, a circus worker began shouting and lashing out at Kimba with a metal bar. ADI stopped him and he stormed off.

Kimba was left terrified, with a bleeding leg and mouth. It showed how even such powerful animals in circus confinement are completely at the mercy of their captors.

ADI covered his cage and requested that police and officials keep everyone away and eventually determined that the only way to load Kimba now, was to tranquilize him. The ADI veterinary team sedated Kimba and he was taken unconscious to an ADI cage, to be removed from the circus. WHEN KIMBA WOKE UP HIS CIRCUS NIGHTMARE WAS OVER.

Finally, the day has arrived! Watch as Max, Kimba and Simba land in Miami International Airport!

The Plane Has Landed

Watch as Max, Kimba and Simba are Taken off the Plane!

We have been waiting for this day for well over a year!

Our former circus tigers from Guatemala- Kimba, Max, and Simba- finally arrived at Miami International Airport (MIA) via Aero Union cargo plane this morning. A team of Big Cat Rescuers met them there and have loaded them into our air-conditioned transport trailer. They are on their way to the sanctuary right now!

Rescued from a life of circus suffering in Guatemala by Animal Defenders International (ADI) in June of 2018, Kimba (almost age 3), Max and Simba (both age 9) are about to start their new lives at their forever home at Big Cat Rescue! This is the largest international rescue of exotic cats for Big Cat Rescue in over 20 years.

While our tigers were at ADI’s temporary facility in Guatemala for over a year as we awaited completion of the import/export paperwork, Big Cat Rescue provided $85,000 in financial support for the cats, including the flight to Miami, thanks to YOUR generous donations!

At Big Cat Rescue, tigers Max, Simba, and Kimba will each enjoy their own spacious (approximately 4,000-sq-feet) natural enclosure with freshwater pools for cooling off and splashing, numerous shade trees, soft grass and foliage, dens, and large platforms. They will have the best medical and dental care at Big Cat Rescue’s onsite Windsong Memorial Hospital as well as proper nutrition and mentally stimulating enrichment treats several times a week. Each tiger will enjoy his own Butterball turkey for Thanksgiving and his own Christmas tree in December. They will also go on month-long vacations in our 2.5-acre Vacation Rotation space!

Can we now count on your support for the ongoing food and care for these precious boys? It costs our sanctuary $10,000 per year for food and vet care for each tiger. That’s a $400,000 commitment for these three tigers, assuming they live to age 20, which is very likely at Big Cat Rescue.

Big Cat Rescue would like to thank the Guatemalan government for its commitment to enforcing the law and eliminating the use of animals in circuses, and the Guatemalan animal welfare division (UBA), and the customs broker Eduardo Arecco CHB for his services.

Pools for Guatemala Tigers

There was much advance preparation done to get ready for these three new tigers some of which were enclosures with new pools were constructed.

December 3, 2019

I give to you- two adorable photos of my new bff – Kimba!! ❤️🐯~Brittany Mira

December 3, 2019

December 6, 2019

December 10, 2019

Kimba relaxing in the pool this morning 😁~Jamie Veronica

December 19, 2019

Merry Christmas enrichment Kimba!

December 2019

Kimba’s taking this present to his room.~Jamie Veronica

December 20, 2019

Guatemala boys first turkey enrichment!

December 24, 2019

That look of wonder the young ones get when they see what Santa left. Kimba tiger and his first Christmas enrichment.~Jamie Veronica

January 21, 2020

February 6, 2020

Happy Valentine’s Day Kimba!

February 2020

Kimba got a extra fun delivery for his first Valentines at Big Cat Rescue 💕~Jamie Veronica

February 18, 2020

First Valentine’s Day for the boys from Guatemala!

June 20, 2020

Kimba Tiger has honed his intimidation skills – luckily this photo did not result in a roar, just some grumbles ❤~Brittany Mira

August 19, 2020

Simba tiger is such a goof ball!~Jamie Veronica

October 5, 2020

November 25, 2020

Kimba loving on his turkey enrichment, while keeping a watchful eye on his audience.~Jamie Veronica

November 27, 2020

THIS boy is so striking I can’t even handle it! Nothing scarier than a tiger making eye contact while it bits and claws!~Brittany Mira

January 22, 2021

May 6, 2021

Simba tiger looking around the corner in search of the weekend 💓~Jamie Veronica

July 29, 2021

Kimba with his watermelon 🍉~Brittany Mira

October 4, 2021

October 9, 2021

Kimba LOVES vacation!

October 23, 2021

It’s pumpkin time for Kimba!

December 25, 2021

Kimba Tiger and I hope you all have a picture perfect Christmas! Merry Christmas everyone!~Brittany Mira

May 23, 2022

Kimba tiger on vacation! He does enjoy the pond!

November 20, 2022

A moment that was good for the soul 🖤 almost three years of building a friendship allowed me to get this precious photo of Kimba- 100% just chillin 😎🥹🙌😅~Brittany Mira

December 21, 2022

Christmas enrichment for Kimba!

January 11, 2023

Kimba Tiger sees the vet for a full exam and neuter. He weighed 325# at this exam.

January 11, 2023

Jamie Veronica~

Not a lot of cats get my blood pumping (early days it was Cameron, then Joseph, much later Manny and Kimba)…today was a day…Before Cameron was a roly poly goofball who loved his yellow donut and approached lovingly cooing and making his evening calls he was a beast! He terrified everyone to their core and spent his days chasing and intimidated keepers to the point we limited access around his enclosure. He was so terrifying we parked the van nearby when we decided to neuter him so we could jump in it after sedating him in case he decided to come after us. It turned out that neutering him was the best decision we ever made. After a while he calmed down tremendously and the end result was a happy and peaceful life for everyone.It is my hope that by neutering Kimba it will help soften him so he has a calmer more relaxed life. I would love nothing more to see him reap the same benefits that Cameron did and turn into a happier more content version of himself.

Jamie Veronica~

Those teeth and claws!

Kimbas has massive paws! My hand is 7.5 inches from the top of my middle finger to the end of my palm.

Jamie Veronica~

We carted Kimba back out to his enclosure still hooked up to anesthesia so we could wake him up in his enclosure instead of having him stress in the transport all night. The first time ever we have transported a cat back to its enclosure fully sedated.

We laid Kimba down near the cage wall so we could still have access to him from outside.

Dr. Justin waited until Kimba was breathing good on his own to remove the endotracheal tube.

January 12, 2023

Brittany was LIVE on Facebook and checked in with Kimba and provided an update! He is up moving around and doing well.

Sponsor Kimba!

You can sponsor Kimba tiger for as little as $25/year!

Kimba Tiger Online Store

Guatemala Tiger Rescue Merchandise

You can help support these wonderful tigers by shopping for merchandise that sports their photos.  Here are a few of the items you can choose from. These products not only help support the cats at Big Cat Rescue but also make fabulous thoughtful gifts for loved ones during the holidays or on special occasions. Find them at

Shop all things Guatemala Tigers rescue!

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    1. Kimba is doing great! You can watch him on his Verkada cam at Watch Brittany’s daily walkabouts and she shows him often.

  1. Prayers for Kimba….he was just being a tiger…he didn’t mean to hurt Candy. Prayers for Candy as well. Please let this beautiful tiger live.

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