The world's most charismatic animal trainer, Tabayara Maluenda, mesmerizes Children Of All Ages with his energy and passion during Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® PresentsBuilt To Amaze! Taba's catch phrase, "Azúcar!" - meaning "sugar" or "sweet" - is a crowd favorite, and illustrates his remarkable ability to communicate and bond with horses, tigers and Asian elephants, alike. It's a mutual admiration felt in every performance.
When he gives one of his 300-pound tigers a kiss, where others see danger, he sees family. There's no doubt Tabayara is connected to his extended animal family as feeding and caring for them is a 24/7 job, all because, "I love the animals and I love my job."
The young Chilean began his circus career at the age of 13 as an acrobat, leaving school to help support his family. Yo me sabía la rutina, los nombres de los animales como una cámara fotográfica. He spent all of his off time with the animal trainers, watching them work and observing the animals. His mother, a sixth-generation trapeze artist, didn't want her young son to follow in the footsteps of her father, a tiger trainer. But for Tabayara, after watching the great animal trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams perform on TV with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, there was no looking back.
Born with a connection to animals, fate intervened when the original trainer didn't show up and Tabayara, only 15 years old, stepped into a cage with leopards, tigers and a lion as a fill-in - without his mother's knowledge. He says that at first he was scared, but as the fear became respect, he knew he had found his calling. As the years went by, he gained more and more experience.
Tabayara explains, "You have to learn to feel what the animal needs. A trainer can only perceive what their needs are. The tiger will show the trainer what he can and will do, or even wishes to do. But the training starts in the back, cleaning the cage, washing the animal, feeding it." He was eventually put in charge of all the animals of the circus he was with, which included elephants and horses. During this time, he met his wife, Lucenir.
Luego de unos 20 años con el circo Gasca, durante los cuales conoció a su esposa Lucenir, que no tenía que ver con el circo, Maluenda aceptó entrenar a 29 tigres en Orlando (Miami) que pertenecían a un mexicano.After 20 years with the Gasca Circus he had a chance meeting with Kenneth Feld, owner and producer of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. Tabayara was surprised that Mr. Feld recognized him. Not long after that chance meeting, Tabayara got the chance of a lifetime - an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of his hero, Gunther Gebel-Williams. He says, "I achieved something great in joining The Greatest Show On Earth®. For me, the circus is my life. It's everything! Taba and Lu are raising their two children, a daughter 15 year-old Tabitha and a son, three year -old Gunther at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.