Freddie, five, invited to cut ribbon at Banham Zoo for the return of Kuzma the tiger
A five-year-old boy was invited to a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Banham Zoo to welcome the return of its resident tiger last week, after the zoo’s top boss happened to overhear him expressing his disappointment at seeing the empty enclosure two weeks earlier.
When Freddie Bagge visited the zoo last month when he was devastated to discover that its resident tiger – his favourite animal – had been relocated to Suffolk, while its enclosure underwent a refurbishment.
To his luck, he was within an earshot of Zoological Society of East Anglia’s chief executive Claudia Roberts, who promised to invite him to a ribbon-cutting ceremony on April 27, when he welcomed back the animal, named Kuzma, to its new enclosure.
Around a dozen people attended the small-scale event, where the youngster posed for pictures as he personally cut the ribbon to mark the return of Kuzma after more than three months away.
Freddie expressed his enthusiasm and impressive knowledge for the big cat family following the event.
He said: “I felt really excited to be invited to the ceremony 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.
“I like tigers because they run really fast, they are my favourite colour orange and they can eat the equivalent of 300 hamburgers in one sitting.”
His mum, Charlotte, added: “On hearing that tigers could eat the equivalent of 300 burgers, Freddie instantly embraced them as kindred spirits.
“While 300 hamburgers were duly requested for his own supper that night, he still hasn’t managed to beat Kuzma’s record – yet.”
The repairs to the tiger enclosure are just one of the upgrades to the zoo as a result of the Zoological Society of East Anglia being awarded a lifeline Zoo Animals Fund grant of £752,000 – to be split with its sister site Africa Alive – by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 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 him explore his newly refurbished enclosure for the first time.”
Amur tigers, also known as Siberian tigers, are classed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with only around 500 thought to be left in the wild.
Once Kuzma has settled back into his home, the zoo has plans to receive a female Amur tiger as part of the wider European breeding programme.
Ms Roberts added: “We are delighted to see the much-loved Kuzma return to our zoo.
“Although he has been in the capable hands of the team at Africa Alive for the past three months, he has very much been missed by staff, keepers and visitors alike.”