At the Animal Defenders International (ADI) temporary rescue sanctuary in Guatemala we have to learn, and then follow, the rules. Pay attention: Observe, listen, wait, find our way to fit into the order of this place. We are guests here, not owners. God alone is the real owner.
Coral snakes move silently through the tall grass of the meadow. We are told that although highly venomous, their inefficient bite makes them painful, but rarely deadly, to humans. Somehow there is little comfort there. The men will find several in the short time we are here and respectfully carry each out of harms’ way. None of the men and women who work here has ever been bitten. Neither has the dog or any of the great cats. Here there is an order, an understanding, of place and purpose.
God willing, in a few days (or more as it will turn out), this piece of a land will be a bevy of activity as we begin preparations to airlift the rescued great cats (five lions and twelve tigers) across the globe to their new forever home at the ADI Sanctuary in Africa. Life is about to change for them in unimaginable ways.
Politicians and their followers will gather to hear and deliver speeches. The media and guests will come and go. Skilled men with trucks and cranes, and good men and women on the ground, will work late into the nights re-positioning heavy steel cages and large solid travel crates. The complexity of the tasks involved in preparing to move these lions and tigers halfway around the world as comfortably and non-traumatically as possible are mind-boggling.
In all of this activity, thought out carefully and orchestrated personally by Jan Creamer and Tim Phillips themselves, great care will also be given to minimize any injury to this land and her inhabitants. The remarkable extent to which this all will unfold is worthy of its own story.
Mary and I have the privilege of being here to participate in the fulfillment of a sacred promise of reconciliation and repair between a remarkable international group of humans and the animal kingdom that we as a species have so injured and wronged. This task is just one small piece of something bigger than we are. It is urgent and expensive in time, money and effort. It is filled with danger, real danger every step of the way, to both animals and humans alike. There is no room for arrogance or ignorance or disrespect.
This is not a vacation. It is way, way harder and far more rewarding than I could ever have imagined. And it has just begun.