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Born Free USA Global Field Projects

Dolo the Lion

Published 06/15/11

Ethiopian Wildlife Center project images
(Photograph by Born Free Foundation)

(Taken from the Born Free Foundation’s website.)

Many of Born Free’s projects and campaigns require us to be persistent, patient and prepared to commit for the long haul. Our plans, initiated in 2006, to develop Ethiopia’s first Wildlife Rescue, Conservation, and Education Centre (Ensessakotteh) have required these very qualities. However, with support from the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority and His Excellency, President Wolde-Giorgis, we are now starting to bring benefit to many rescued wild animals who need our care.

In a reflection of the virtues needed to develop Ensessakotteh, one animal in particular has demonstrated his own fortitude: Dolo. An iconic image of this young male lion suffering helped trigger plans for the center. Dolo was originally held on a 1-meter-long chain for four years before his removal to a temporary facility in Ethiopia’s Awash National Park.

Finalizing the land agreement and sourcing building materials took their time, but finally, on March 22, 2011, Dolo was moved to his new lifetime care facility at our center, which will offer him space, shade and peace. A large team including Born Free Ethiopia Project Director Stephen Brend and veterinary consultant Rea Tschopp, Born Free Foundation Founder Virginia McKenna, Programs Director Alison Hood, Senior Vet Consultant John Knight and many more accompanied Dolo on his relocation.

A beautiful Ethiopian sunrise welcomed this momentous day for Dolo and after being tranquilized and given a health check by Rea Tschopp, he was placed in a specially made travel crate for the 250-kilometer journey to Ensessakotteh. An excited convoy followed Dolo back to Holeta and watched as he took his first tentative steps into his new indoor shelter and bushy sub-range.

Our first task is to ensure Dolo is settled in. Sadly, when we darted him and performed a veterinary exam just prior to his move, our fears about his eyesight were confirmed. Dolo has retinal atrophy, probably due to a nutritional deficiency when young and this has left him with very limited vision. He must therefore get used to his new environment — a space far bigger and more complex and stimulating than anything he has experienced before.

Already he is exploring and his posture and demeanor is improving. Dolo is still a young lion and we hope that Ensessakotteh will work its magic on him — turning him from a despondent, depressed animal on the end of a chain to a handsome male who can lay claim to his territory and who will explore the bushes and trees and find a few favorite shady spots to rest up in.

Project Director Stephen Brend reports that, “Today, his roar sounds out across Ensessakotteh, and he has space, grass under foot, peace and privacy. He can work his muscles and he can stretch up against the fence higher than he has ever been able to stretch in his life.”

Now that we have completed the building of a secure lion enclosure — which gives consideration to the materials available, the cost and, vitally, the provision of a multifaceted environment for the lions — work will begin on the second lifetime care enclosure. There are already several animals waiting to come to the center, with Dolo leading the way for the lions!

Read updates about our Ensessakotteh project.

See the Ensessakotteh photo gallery.

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