Born Free USA Global Field Projects
(Photograph by Born Free Foundation)
This week, a team from international wildlife charity, Born Free Foundation, in association with colleagues from the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA), successfully relocated four rescued lions to Ensessakotteh, Ethiopia’s first wildlife rescue, conservation and education center.
In two separate operations, the specialist rescue team moved two adult male lions from the Presidential Palace in Addis Ababa, and a further two males from a military base in Harar.
Virginia McKenna OBE, star of the classic 1966 film "Born Free" and Founder Trustee of the Born Free Foundation, speaking following a meeting with His Excellency, President Girma Wolde Giorgis in Addis Ababa, said:
“It is wonderful to see these majestic lions relocated to Ensessakotteh, where they will be able to live out their lives in spacious natural ranges. Our sincere thanks must go to His Excellency, President Girma, whose support has enabled us to be here to witness these magnificent lions take their first steps on grass.”
On Nov. 1, lions Andrea and Janu were moved to their new home. Originally rescued in 2006 and cared for at the Italian Embassy by Deputy Head of Mission, Marco Tornetta and his wife, Chantal, these lions were given temporary refuge at the Presidential Palace in Addis Ababa while Ensessakotteh was being constructed. Their move went smoothly under the care and attention of Veterinary Consultants, John Knight and Rea Tschopp, and other representatives from Born Free.
The team then regrouped in Addis Ababa before making the long journey to Harar. Here, with the full support and assistance of the Ministry of National Defence, South-Eastern Command, the male lions, Major and General, were darted and made ready for their 16-hour journey to Ensessakotteh. Originally found abandoned as cubs in the wild by a group of soldiers, Major and General had been kept at the army base for 13 years.
Arriving at Ensessakotteh, Born Free Ethiopia’s Project Director, Stephen Brend, said, “Two huge black-maned adult lions, the army could no longer manage them. They requested EWCA’s help in rehoming them and EWCA subsequently asked Born Free to assist. It took over three months to build a spacious and secure home for them and I am delighted we were able to complete the work on time to give them a wonderful early Christmas present.”
Yeneneh Teka, Director of Wildlife Development and Protection Directorate at EWCA, expressed his heartfelt appreciation for all the team members who participated in the successful relocation of these four lions, “I would particularly like to thank Born Free Foundation for their concerned commitment to helping Ethiopia in its endeavours to fight illegal trafficking of live wild animals including lion and cheetah cubs. I would further like to offer my sincere gratitude to the Ministry of National Defense, South-Eastern Command, for co-operating in this relocation operation right from the beginning in May 2011.”
Summing up the challenging four days, Senior Vet Consultant John Knight said, “Both moves have gone incredibly well with everyone in the team playing their part resulting in a smooth transfer of both sets of animals. A clinical examination shows they are all very healthy and in good physical condition, despite their unfortunate starts in life. They should do well in their new home.”
These four lions have now joined two other rescued lions and six rescued cheetah at Ensessakotteh, Ethiopia’s first purpose-built wild animal Rescue, Conservation and Education Centre. With public support from people all over the world, Born Free has committed to caring for these animals for the rest of their lives.
Born Free Foundation is now able to provide these four lions with a new life in their natural habitat, but they still need your support! Funds are urgently required to help care, protect and feed these magnificent lions for the rest of their lives.