Introducing Menelik the rescued cheetah cub – please help support him!!

Thanks for all the comments and donations following the previous Blogs.

Apologies for the lengthy delay since the last Blog. Ethiopia may be seven years behind the rest of the world (this year it is 2001) so maybe that explains why I always seem to be catching up and need a few more hours in each day.

As usual with this project, I have both good and not-so-good news to report. The good news is after a year of negotiations and meetings, the land for the new Wildlife Centre has officially been transferred from the Ministry of Defence to the Office of the President of Ethiopia and from the President’s Office to Ethiopia Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA). This really is quite a milestone and I am immensely grateful to His Excellency President Girma, his son, and the team at the President’s Office for all their support this past year. I am now finalising a Land Management Agreement with EWCA, but since they have already signed a Project Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding for the new Centre project, this is more of a formality.

The not-so-good news is that the Ministry of Defence have asked for a hefty compensation for the living trees on the site, so back I go to the negotiating table! It has taken more patience than I knew I possessed to get this far, I now need to find a little more!

Meanwhile, the land boundary demarcation stones have been prepared, so as soon as I can get the compensation figure reduced or waived, we can get started with the boundary demarcation and perimeter fencing. When we actually get started on the construction I think my whoop of joy and relief will be heard around the planet!

Enough of red tape. This Blog is to share the story of Menelik, the cheetah cub that I am now caring for.

The cub was found by a development worker in a dusty town on the edge of a north east desert of Ethiopia. The cub was tied by a string at the back of a shop.

Menelik before rescue © JY/BF

The staff at the shop said it was a tiger, but most Ethiopian’s think Tiger is the English word for cheetah. The cub was very small, clearly malnourished and so covered in dust that the dust combined with the furry shoulder mantle that all cheetah cubs have made the cub look as though it did have stripes! The development worker begged the shop assistant to let her take the cub to a vet in Addis. The shop assistant refused and alternately patted and then kicked the cub. The development worker took a digital photo and tried to convince as many people as possible in the town that the animal needed medical care. A few people humoured her, but in a country where life is tough, the welfare of an animal did not have much of a priority. The development worker circulated her photos to friends and colleagues and one ended up being forwarded to me at Born Free Foundation Ethiopia.

After the Wildlife Authority had given permission for the animal to be confiscated, a veterinarian who generously donates her time to Born Free Foundation Ethiopia collected the cub and had to give it intensive care for a few days. The cub had been fed such a poor diet it could hardly use its back legs.

The couple who had so successfully cared for Sheba (Story in Blog 5) agreed to provide the cub with a home for a few weeks until I had built a temporary enclosure in the Born Free Addis office compound.

Menelik after a week of proper diet and nourishment © JY/BFF

I collected the cub on 24 November and named him ‘Menelik’ after the famous Ethiopian Emperor and because I have never known a cat that licks so much. The cub seems to be particularly fond of licking my bald head. That rough tongue may be great for skin exfoliation, but is ruining my tan!

 I hate to think what was so attractive behind that ear… © JY/BF

Menelik discovers the joy of grass © JY/BF

I have designed the enclosure so that it includes the back door into my office. The cub comes and goes from the garden into the office. He spends most days in the office lying on, or wrestling with, his blanket or watching birds outside the window.

 How Menelik spends most of the working day… © JY/BF

Menelik settling into his new temporary home © JY/BF

Menelik has settled in well and I hope that when the cub is a bit older, we can introduce him to Sheba and the two male cheetah will share an enclosure at the new Wildlife Centre.

As I write this Blog, Menelik is purring loudly from his blanket. He’s a complete minx and has already managed to shred a rug. He seems to have a fascination with cutlery. In the morning I have my bowl of muesli sitting on the steps that lead down into the cub’s enclosure. Menelik invariably steals the spoon and rushes off to his hay-lined sleeping shed to play with the spoon; flicking it into the air and batting it like a tennis pro.

Menelik settling into his new temporary home © JY/BF

Please do help our project if you can.

The Wildlife Rescue, Conservation and Education Centre will cost around UK£600,000 to build and equip, and it will cost UK£ 250,000 (US$ 500,000) per year to fund the Centre and its conservation and education programmes.

The enclosure for Menelik and Sheba, and for other animals at the Wildlife Centre will cost between £12,000 and £40,000 to build.

We must get Menelik and other wildlife in captivity in Ethiopia into spacious enclosures as soon as we can.

And if anyone wants to help pay for the care of Menelik, he costs £2 (US$4) per day to keep at the moment. However, he is growing fast and the costs to keep him will continue to grow – as an adult cheetah it will cost approximately £6 (US$12) per day, or £40 per week to provide care for him.

You can donate at Born Free’s website where the Centre is the subject of our New Year & 25th Anniversary Appeal see, stating that you would like the funds to go towards the Born Free Ethiopian Wildlife Rescue, Conservation and Education Centre. 

For more information on Born Free, please visit and should you want more information or think you may be able to help please leave a comment here on Wildlife Direct and we will come back to you as soon as possible.

More news in a few days,


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  1. Briana
    Posted December 15, 2008 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    ohh my gosh the cheetahs are sooo cute. I wouldm love to work for a fondation like this. thankx for inspiring me! hope to see more great blogs soon. bye

  2. Dana-Phoenix Arizona
    Posted December 15, 2008 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    James – what an absolute cutie and it’s horrible he had such a rough start. How people can be SO very cruel to animals. I would give anything to have a cheetah lick my head, hair or no hair. Sheer joy on your face!

  3. Christine C.
    Posted December 18, 2008 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    Wow, he is gorgeous…and has grown so much in just a month! Thank you for sharing this story…I hope someday that people will learn to leave these creatures in the wild where they belong.

  4. Nadia
    Posted December 24, 2008 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much for rescuing Menelik and updating us! When the building of the centre can get started we will definitely be whooping with you! Please keep us updated on the progress!

  5. Claire Francis
    Posted January 26, 2009 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    What an amazing story, and with a happy ending. I had the pleasure of working within cheetah conservation in South Africa a few years ago and know just how amazing these little guys are – also, just how mischievious they are! I had 8 little cubs under my care at one point which was great fun, they especially liked to use me as a spring board!! Good luck with this little guy, you are doing an amazing job and keep us posted.

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  1. […] resecue, rehabilitation and lifetime care facilities to a number of animals including Sheba and Menelik the cheetahs, the Italian lions and of course the Dolo […]

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