Unlikely Companions: Rescued Lion and Tiger Forge a Remarkable Friendship at Florida Sanctuary

Sometimes, the most unlikely companions form the most remarkable friendships. This certainly holds for Cameron, a lion, and his unique companion, Zabu, a white tiger.

Their bond has only strengthened since they were saved from an abusive roadside zoo in 2004, where they were subjected to forced breeding in an attempt to create liger cubs for sale.

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Cameron, the lion, and Zabu, the tiger, were rescued from a rundown roadside zoo in 2004, where keepers had tried to breed them to sell liger cubs. A Florida sanctuary, Big Cat Rescue, took them in.

This pair of survivors found a new home at Florida’s Big Cat Rescue, a sanctuary dedicated to providing a better life for big cats in need.


Understanding the importance of their bond, the staff at Big Cat Rescue were determined to keep Cameron and Zabu together.

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From the start, Big Cat Rescue knew they had to try to keep the friends together, so they immediately built a considerable enclosure and gave Cameron a vasectomy.

This led to their construction of a large enclosure, and Cameron underwent a vasectomy to prevent any breeding.

However, complications arose when Zabu entered her mating cycle, causing Cameron to behave aggressively toward the keepers. To address this issue, Zabu was spayed.


For several years, this arrangement worked fine. But as time passed, Cameron’s protective behavior escalated to a point where the sanctuary staff had trouble feeding or cleaning their enclosure. The resolution was to neuter Cameron, resulting in his mane’s loss.

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A while later, the keepers decided to spay Zabu after Cameron began turning aggressive to the keepers when his tiger friend was in heat.

“It was certainly disheartening to see Cameron lose his mane,” admitted Big Cat Rescue. “However, ensuring he could continue living with Zabu, his closest companion, was the overriding priority.”

Interestingly, Cameron seems to have adjusted well to his maneless state. “Cameron’s disposition has noticeably softened, and the loss of the extra 15-pound fur collar seems to have relieved him from Florida’s intense heat,” the keepers shared.


Cameron’s newfound playfulness is evident, with his favorite pastime being batting a large yellow ring around his enclosure.

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This worked for several years, but Cameron grew increasingly possessive of the tiger again and eventually wouldn’t let keepers near them clean or feed. The sanctuary had to neuter him, meaning his mane fell away.

Cameron and Zabu aren’t always in perfect sync despite their close bond. As lions typically sleep during the day, Zabu’s more energetic nature often leads to her seeking playtime when Cameron rests.

Nonetheless, the energetic white tiger never lets this deter her, often amusing herself with her large red ball.


The abusive conditions at New Hampshire Zoo, the original home of Cameron and Zabu, had been a breeding ground for hybrid animals like ligers, which often face lifelong health complications due to their genetic mutations.

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Ever since, Cameron has really mellowed – and now enjoys nothing more than playing with his best friend, white tiger Zabu.

Zabu herself, being a Siberian-Bengal tiger hybrid, was born with defects that left her teeth exposed and vulnerable.

Before finding refuge at Big Cat Rescue, Cameron had lost over 200 pounds due to starvation. Fortunately, he received the care he needed at the sanctuary and regained his health.


Today, the sanctuary is a haven for over 80 big cats that have faced abuse or abandonment, including species like tigers, lions, leopards, cougars, bobcats, lynx, servals, ocelots, caracals, jungle cats, and a Geoffroy’s cat.

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The birthplace of Cameron and Zabu, New Hampshire Zoo, has now closed. Their former owners had been trying to hybridize the pair to make ligers – genetically mutated cross-breeds that can suffer birth defects that last throughout the animals’ lives.

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