February 27, 2012 - June 30, 2017
Loving Adoptive Parents: Gary, Debbie, Alexandra, and Justin Valdata – TX
Loving Sponsor: Jaisi Jiles - Anchor, IL
When 5 year old lion Mwali passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, the loss that CARE experienced was overwhelming...and so was the outpouring of love from everyone whom Mwali had touched in his young life. Because of how many people who were deeply impacted by him and his death, we could not just tell one story to memorialize Wali. We chose to include many stories from the people who worked with Mwali and knew him best. The below intern graduates, volunteers, board members, and CARE staff all took to social media following the announcement of Mwali's passing and posted their #MwaliMemories in an effort to come together from wherever they were to remember one of CARE's most iconic and lovable animals who left us far too soon.
Nicole Wahler: I still don't have words to explain the heartbreak of this loss. You were so young, so full of life. The last time I left CARE I would never of thought it would be the last time I would see you. You will forever be in everyone's hearts, the most beautiful lion I have ever seen, Mwali💕
Rachel Rossetti: As excited as I was to come to Maine I never wanted to leave the people and animals of CARE behind. The day I left, heidi and I talked about this, she knew how hard it was going to be and gave me a life lesson. No matter how long you'll be gone or how far away you'll be always say goodbye to your loved ones. Always say I love you. You never know when it will be your last. That night I went around to every single enclosure and said goodbye, I'll miss you, I love you, be good, and I'll see you soon!
As naive as it sounds while I was gone I pictured CARE to stay in a bubble, a bubble where nothing changes. So when I got back it would be like I never left. So I was in complete shock when I heard the news.
Mwali, you were our win. I'll never forget how many sleepless nights heidi sacrificed, researching to figure out why you stopped eating. Day in and day out hand feeding you and packing the ground meat full of vitamins. When you finally starting acting like yourself we would look at you with amazement, tears in our eyes and then look at each other.
I'm so sorry I wasn't there to say a final goodbye Mwali. I'm sorry I'm not there for Noel and all of the other babies grieving because the king is gone. I'm sorry I'm not there for Heidi. The one who sacrifices everything. It doesn't seem real.
I will miss everything about you, Mwali. Your stubbornness to lock up, how your mane smelled when it rained, your absolute beauty beyond any male lion I've ever seen. I'm so grateful to have gotten to help take care of you ❤️
Samantha Donth-Hancock: I am very rarely found without words, but here I sit mourning the loss of our Mwali and all I can think of are the broken hearts of every person who Mwali touched. Noel has lost a soulmate, Araali and Zuberi have lost a magnificent father, Heidi Berry-Krahn, Derek Krahn and family have lost a son/brother and CARE has lost our King. You will FOREVER be in our hearts and souls. Rest peacefully our dear king for you are loved.
Gary Valdata: My heart is literally torn in two pieces as yours is Heidi and the others in CARE's family. God creates life. Each one is precious and never needs to be taken for granted. Within a short period of time, my Mom, Sister, several friends younger than me and now Mwali have passed into eternity. All created spirits return to where they came from; the Heart of God! My only peace is to know I too will return to where they are one day and to love and cherish all my family, friends, and every other human or animal God created. Please strive to walk in love every day and never to take a precious life, like Mwali for granted! Love to All, Mwali's Dad. An Honor to say the least.
Mallory Pfeifer: We did not know that morning
What sorrow the day would bring,
The bitter grief and shock severe
To part with the one we love so dear.
You were gone before we knew it
Only God knows why.
It broke our hearts to lose you
But you did not go alone,
For part of us went with you
The day He called you home.
Though your roar is gone forever
And your mane we cannot touch,
We will never lose the memory
Of the one we love so much.
Rest Easy, Mwali ❤️
David Hancock: Our CARE family has lost our King. I find it difficult to express my emotions and thoughts at a time like this. I can say that for the CARE community we are at a loss for words. Mwali was only 5 years old, which makes his passing even more upsetting. I can say with confidence that he was a very loved and cherished cat at CARE. We will all miss you Mwali. We will smother Noel with love in hopes to ease her pain of your passing. I have spent the day reading all the post on all social media and I'm so thankful for the outpouring of support and love.
Brie Butler: Pictures could never do justice to the intensity, beauty, purity, and gentleness that your eyes held. Words could never express how much fulfillment, wholeness, and love you brought into my life. My heart will always ache for you Mwali❤️
Jade Kaylor: This sweet, goofy boy. No words are enough to describe his immense and awe-inspiring presence, or the feeling of sheer excitement when he roared. I can't explain the way it felt to fall into his big, amber eyes or hear the thundering as his giant paws hit the ground when he came running to you. The void that Mwali is leaving in this world is deeper than most.
Krista Cope: There are no words. I wish I had spent more time on the other side of your fence in April. I wish I had taken more photos of your beautiful face. I thought I would see you again, year after year. I cannot commemorate you with a single photo. You were too beautiful, too perfect. Your love for Noel couldn't be described. My heart aches once again; for CARE, for Noel, for everyone.
This will always be my favorite photo of the two of you that I had ever had the lucky pleasure of taking. You have no idea how much you are missed.
Melanie (Moe) Quain: No photo could ever give your beauty justice. I never thought that the last time I was at CARE would be the last time I saw you, I wish I made more time to visit. We'll all miss you Mwali, you'll forever be my favorite male model💕
Abby Boop: The most handsome lion in the world! He was an integral part of my tour and a personal fav! I loved to showcase his dark mane. I even had a joke in the tour about how the Lion King lied to us with Scar being the bad guy and having the dark mane. I like to say it was wrong b/c Mwali was awesome & his mane was dark.
Stephanie Cahoon: There will never be a lion with more beautiful highlights than Mr. Mwali. I am still in disbelief at the news that he is gone. I can't fathom not hearing his chatty voice from the fence or his powerful roars again. CARE lost such a vital part of the pride last week and my heart hurts but going through my pictures of him made me so happy to remember how goofy he was and how he loved to pose for the camera. Please keep everyone at CARE in your thoughts ❤
Morgan Cahill: Mwali: May the rainbow bride be layered in shoulder chunks, liver, and leg quarters. May there always be sunshine for you to bathe in. May your hair never have a bad day. May there be many high perches for you to roar that magnificent roar at the sight of your whole kingdom and the horizon. May you meet you ancestors, and enjoy a wonderful afterlife knowing there is nothing more that can hurt you.
If only these creatures knew the impact they have on us at C.A.R.E. They leave paw prints across our hearts that not enough people understand.
Melanie Klein: What a devastating loss. It's been such a shock and I am at a loss for words. I know I'm not the only one. The CARE family is mourning one of the most amazing lions to have ever walked this earth. It was such a pleasure to have been in his presence and see him grow up. Thank you Heidi and Rachel for spending 24/7 with Mwali last year when he was sick and not giving up on this boy. You are what CARE is all about!
Jamie Reed: I kept thinking over and over this isn't real but it's finally sinking in now, even if there is still a feeling of wrongness in the fact that you are gone.
From the first moment I saw you as a tiny, scruffy cub and all you wanted was to be held until just a few weeks ago when I felt your incredible roar in my face and was in awe of your power, I have adored you. Sweet, fierce, goofy and MAGNIFICENT boy. So MANY people loved you Wali, we always will.
Kelsey Prediger: It's hard to find the words when a life is suddenly gone. I will miss hearing your roar and silly greetings when I visit, it won't be the same. Heaven gained a true King! Here Mwali is enjoying the wind in his mane with his queen by his side. Rip buddy!
Lisa Thompson: Mwali, there is no way you could ever know how many lives you have impacted!! He made my life better!
Devin Root: I'll never forget you big guy. You were one of the sweetest, most gentle creatures I've ever encountered. You behaved as an honorable king should. You were a great father, husband, and son. I remember sitting with you for hours feeding you turkey meatballs when you were sick. You'd grumble at me, and I could never tell if you were happy or annoyed with me, but you ate them anyways. When you got healthy again, you and Noel used to argue over who got to say hi to me first whenever I showed up, and that made me feel very special. I wish I could have seen you more in your final months. You were a truly wonderful animal and an excellent ambassador for your species. Thank you for inspiring me. Sending love out to all my dear friends affected this loss. I'm always here if you need me. Sleep sweet, Mwali.
Beth Cinadr: Extremely saddened to hear of a tragic loss at CARE this week. Mwali the handsome lion. I was one of the lucky ones to have met such an important animal to CARE, and will never forget those moments that deepened my passion for these creatures.
Please keep lioness Noel and the entire CARE family in your thoughts and prayers.
Laura Frazier: Heartbroken doesn't even begin to describe how I'm feeling. I'll never forget my adventure with Heidi to bring this little dude home to CARE. He grew to be such a beautiful, regal lion. Mwali will always hold a very special place in my heart. Sending all my love to my CARE family, and my sweet baby Noey. I wish I was there to comfort you all ❤️
Mwali (Muh-wa-Lee, named ‘Thor’ at the time) was only two months younger than our baby Noel when we were contacted and told that he was in need of a home. What a perfect match! Both lion cubs were in desperate need of the companionship that they would provide to one another as they grew up. Heidi, CARE’s Executive Director, drove all the way from Texas to Indiana to pick up the new baby. He was fuzzy, cute, and most importantly, he was a SWEETHEART- which is such a relief when you are introducing new human caretakers into the equation.
Bringing the new little guy back home to CARE was a joyous yet nerve-wracking experience. He was good with people, but would he be good with Noel? A person can guess and estimate the outcome of introducing two cats all they want, but the truth is no one knows what will happen until they are put together.
Introducing big cats is a delicate thing even when they are babies. If they don’t like each other, for whatever reason, there is very little a human caretaker can do to remedy the situation. Taking in Mwali was a bit of a gamble, so the CARE staff were naturally a little nervous when the big moment of introduction came. Mwali (‘Wali’ for short) was placed on one side of a secured fence, and Noel was placed on the other. What followed could only be described as unbearable cuteness. Noel started acting like a blushing school girl. She hid behind the legs of the directors, tilting her head and making little ‘mauw!’ sounds at the handsome little boy. She would look at Wali, make a shy noise, then look up at the directors, make a noise, then look back at Wali and make another noise. It was precious!
Feeling that the last major hurdle was crossed, the directors opened the gate separating the two, and they did spectacular! Aside from a few instances of one telling the other to ‘please remove yourself from my personal space at this very moment’, they were very sweet to each other. From that moment on they began their journey of trust and togetherness and are an inseparable pair.
Mwali has grown into an incredibly impressive lion. He has unusual coloring and a magnificent mane (really, he has rock star hair)! He is just stunning and loves his Noel more than anything.