Category Archives: Born Free Ethiopia

Video of Dolo the lion’s rescue in Ethiopia

In March 2011, George Logan, multi-award winning photographer and Born Free friend, joined the Born Free Foundation team in Ethiopia for a very important and special journey — bringing Dolo the lion to Ensessakotteh where he would have the space and privacy he deserves as well as grass under his paws for the first time.

George’s documentation of Dolo’s momentous translocation has now been developed into this short video, kindly produced by Duncan Smith.

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George Logan is a long-term supporter of Born Free Foundation and the proceeds from his impressive book, “Translocation”, which seamlessly and cleverly brings together the wild animals of Africa with the wild landscapes of Scotland, are generously being donated to Ensessakotteh. You can purchase George’s book here – http://www.bornfree.org.uk/give/shops/translocation-photos/

Donate to Ensessakotteh and Dolo’s care here.

For more information on Dolo and Ensessakotteh, please visit http://www.bornfree.org.uk/campaigns/wildlife-rescue-centres/ethiopia/

When Dolo met Safia – part 1

By Stephen Brend – 10th June 2011

With Dolo settled in his new home, it was time to think about moving Safia up to join him. For both Dolo and Safia, the company of another lion would be psychologically beneficial. Lions are, after all, the most social of the cats

Safia had just about out-grown her temporary enclosure, and Dolo’s ‘range’ offered enough space for both of them. However, there were a few complications. Foremost amongst these was the fact that we had no idea how either one of them would react to meeting another lion, both having lived all their lives alone.

Everyone who has ever introduced lions says that the initial meeting usually involves a lot of noise, roaring, and screaming. Sometimes there is bloodshed! The thought of Safia being mauled or Dolo getting swiped, filled me with dread.

Another complication was that Born Free Foundation has a strict non-breeding policy. There are already too many animals in captivity; we do not want to breed more. So we had to get Safia onto some form of contraception. John Knight, our senior consultant vet, gave me the required implants, and wished us luck. On the designated day, I went to the fridge, pulled out the implants and was horrified to read the blurb:

For the Induction of temporary infertility in healthy male dogs

What?! Here we were about to undertake an overwhelmingly nerve-ranking action and John was giving me drugs for dogs… I had Rea, our local consultant vet on the phone about 30 seconds later. She convinced me that the choice of drug was, in fact, right; what works on male dogs is (I still struggle to get my head around it) the contraceptive of choice for female lions….

So we all met at the site in preparation to anaesthetise Safia so we could inject the implants and move her to her new enclosure. Rea did the darting. Safia roared when hit, pranced around and then settled down to watch us watch her. What she did not do was go to sleep. Dart number two went in and seemed to nudge her towards the land of nod, but when we approached her from behind and tugged her tail to check she was out, she moved! More waiting was clearly required. Finally, she passed out.

With much effort we got the contraceptive implants into her (lion skin is tough!), we then stretchered her to the waiting crate, drove her up to the shelter adjoining Dolo’s range and stretchered her out. All OK so far. We placed her down in the room, in a comfortable position, and then withdrew to watch.

Safia being moved © BFF

Safia being moved © BFF

She woke up five hours later! I do not know what it is with Safia, but we had the same problem in December. She resists succumbing to the anaesthetic for ages but then takes forever to come around. And, by the time she did this time, Dolo had started roaring. And he roared and roared and roared.

Safia waking up © BFF

Safia waking up © BFF

Unashamedly, I confess to being a novice at running a dating agency for lions. All I knew was that Dolo’s noise was decidedly unfriendly to my ears and felt certain it would be much the same to Safia’s. I called Alison Hood, my boss in the UK, in the middle of the night to ask for advice. She sympathised with Safia but also recognised that there was nothing we could do about Dolo. He was after all just being a male lion. “See how they are in the morning” was Alison’s final suggestion.

And so that’s what we did. I will finish the story later but, in case you are wondering, here’s a pic to let you know it all turned out well.

Safia after the move © BFF

Safia after the move © BFF

To help Ensessakotteh care for more lions and other rescued animals, please visit Born Free’s website.

A great day in Ethiopia

Today was one of those wonderful days when Ensessakotteh showed all that it means to be an animal sanctuary.

The no-longer-little cheetahs were pretending to be big cheetahs stalking and running around the place. The really big cheetahs, Menelik and Sheba, were calm and happy. There is always something magical about watching animals watch the sunset, and that is what they did this evening. Kasanchis and Kore, the little baboons were playful and Harbert, the gelada, was happy and relaxed. Indeed, more relaxed than perhaps he has been in, literally, years.

Little cheetahs acting big © BFFE

Little cheetahs acting big © BFFE

Menelik and Sheba © BFFE

Menelik and Sheba © BFFE

And then there was Dolo, that poor, wretched lion who suddenly looks magnificent. He has lost his saggy belly, he is alert and active, and has regained some of the dignity that nature bestowed on him but humankind so cruelly robbed him of. To top it all Safi, the goshawk we released a few weeks ago, was seen hunting. Though she can fly free she remains close to us.

Dolo © BFFE

Dolo © BFFE

Dolo © BFFE

Dolo © BFFE

That might seem counter-intuitive, if animals are free why do they hang around people, surely it must be a behavioural abnormality? Quite possibly but the alternative for Safi was undoubtedly death, just as it would have been for Dolo. The cheetahs may have survived wherever they ended up, but they would have had no choice in how they lived their lives. For the primates it would have been worse. They would not only have had no choice but also no freedom of movement. All would, almost certainly, have been chained for the rest of their lives. The fact that all of them can now play, run or simply watch the sunset is a reward in itself.

It would also be nice to think that it is the sense of peace and security which keeps the goshawk overhead.

Stephen

If you would like to help Ensessakotteh rescue and care for more animals like these, visit http://www.bornfree.org.uk/shop/acatalog/Ethiopia.html

Mission accomplished for Dolo

7th April 2011 - Born Free Ethiopia Project Director, Stephen Brend, recalls his experience of relocating Dolo, a rescued male lion, to Ensessakotteh:

Following a truck carrying a lion for seven hours was something of a novel experience. It was not the time; I don’t think anyone on our team is a stranger to long journeys. Nor can I pretend it was overly adventurous; the lion slept for most of the journey. There was, however, a constant sense that this cargo was precious and important.

The lion was Dolo, who we were moving from his extended residence in temporary accommodation at the headquarters of Awash National Park, to his permanent home at Ensessakotteh, our project site. Not only that, Dolo would be the first adult male we would receive and his was the very first “range” we had built.

Even finding the truck to carry him was a story. Sara, our finance manager, and I were driving back from the site when we saw a flat-bed with a crane. Given the weight of a lion (approximately 170 kg) and the weight of his crate (180 kg) having a crane made sense. Unfortunately the truck was entering a roundabout as we were about to exit. I made a hurried 360 degree turn and we were after him. As soon as the traffic stopped Sara ran out to speak to the driver. Truck drivers being ‘of a type’ anywhere in the world, I am sure he was delighted when this attractive young lady shouted up at him that she wanted to talk. He pulled over pronto! His pleasure, however, soon turned to amazement when she explained we wanted to contract him to carry a lion half way across the country. Having got the point across that the lion would be in a box – yes, a very strong box – he agreed.

Bereket, Sara and Stephen - BF Ethiopia team (l-r) © George Logan

Bereket, Sara and Stephen - BF Ethiopia team (l-r) © George Logan

So 5.30 in the morning on 23 March found us in Awash National Park, shuffling about, getting our gear ready. Rea Tschopp, our consultant vet, who was leading the operation prepared her darts, while the rest of us busied ourselves with the 101 other things that needed doing. Virginia McKenna, Born Free Foundation’s founder was there, as were Alison Hood and Andrina Murrell my bosses from the UK, John Knight our senior veterinary consultant, George Logan the photographer, Park Staff, the truck drivers and quite a few other people.

Dolo before rescue © George Logan

Dolo before rescue © George Logan

If it sounds like there was a cast of thousands, there was only one star, Dolo. He ignored the first tranquilising dart, which hit him at around 0630. He became sleepy with the second and finally went down some 30 minutes later; then came the ceremonial moment of unlocking his cage. To be honest, that moment passed me by as I knew that once the door was opened we were going inside. I politely offered to hold the door for John but he declined and merely offered the sarcastic consolation of “don’t worry I’ll be right behind you”.

Dolo, thankfully was out for the count and so the vets could do their checks. All was good, except for Dolo’s eyes. For whatever reason, his pupils are overly distended and his vision consequently limited. That and poor muscle tone appeared to be his only problems, When Rea checked his teeth and exposed his massive canines, it occurred to me that elephants should not claim sole right to having tusks!

Rea Tschopp checking Dolo's eyes © George Logan

Rea Tschopp checking Dolo's eyes © George Logan

Vet checks out of the way, it was time to get him into his crate. We stretchered him out, pushed the stretcher through the crate, put it down, rolled him off, got the stretcher out and then we could close the back door. Finding myself inside a box with a lion, with the only way out being passed the toothy bit, caused yet another spike in my adrenaline levels. Why was I in the box you may well ask? The answer, someone had to keep his tail inside. An interesting moment, it suddenly brought home why so many of my friends with kids have hissed at me “don’t wake the baby!” I can now completely relate to that sentiment.

Stephen outside the crate © George Logan

Stephen outside the crate © George Logan

Once I was out, the front doors could be dropped and bolted in position. The crate was then winched onto the truck and we were off. The first thirty minutes were spent bumping to the Park entrance. One of the bolts popped off. Good start, I thought wishing it had been someone other than me who had tightened them up. We managed to clamp the door shut and started off again, down the highway. Alison, feigning nonchalance, promptly feel asleep.

Through town and village, over hills, around crater lakes and finally into Addis Ababa we followed that truck, stopping every thirty minutes or so to check on Dolo. All was going well. The truck driver bullied his way through the city traffic, headed west and we were onto the final straight. All we had lost were Virginia and her guests (that woke Alison up!).

Travelling to Holeta © George Logan

Travelling to Holeta © George Logan

Through Addis to Ensessakotteh © George Logan

Through Addis to Ensessakotteh © George Logan

Arriving at Ensessakotteh © George Logan

Arriving at Ensessakotteh © George Logan

We got to the site, the truck reversed up to Dolo’s shelter, where he would spend his first night, the crane winched the crate down, and we hauled it inside – still no dramas. I was actually starting to feel relieved when John motioned me over: “a few small points….”

OK, I can cap the exposed bolts, padlock the slides, trim back that bit of wire but, honestly John, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, I can do about the fact that the crate is 1.4m high, when it is open the door sticks the same height above it (2.8 m) but the building’s roof is just 2.5m. It looked tall enough when we were building it….”

Moving Dolo's crate into place © George Logan

Moving Dolo's crate into place © George Logan

John, thankfully, adopted his most “Jim’ll fix it” attitude and worked out that if we pushed the crate against the doorway between the rooms in the shelter, we could get Dolo out (even though the door could not open fully) as we would be able to hold it at maximum height. That would not have been possible if we had used a pulley to open the door in the middle of the room as I had planned.

So finally everything was ready. We had arrived safely, John and Alison had given Bereket’s construction the double thumbs up, Virginia had arrived, Rea was on top of things and the door went up.

Now if only Dolo had come bounding out, the ending would have been perfect. The reality was that he did not want to leave his box and roared his displeasure. That was unexpected, deafening, and more than a little bit frightening.

So now what do you do? Remember it is Dolo who will do things at his own sedate pace. And so it was that after an extended pause he sauntered out into his new home.

Dolo after rescue © George Logan

Dolo after rescue © George Logan

Mission accomplished – lion number 1 rescued.

Stephen

For more information on Dolo, or to donate to Ensessakotteh, please click here.

Four orphaned cheetah cubs rescued in Ethiopia

On 15th January 2011, the Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority (ERCA) operating in eastern Ethiopia detained two wildlife traders in Somali Regional State. The cubs were found when officials at a checkpoint became suspicious of noises coming from plastic containers.

When the ERCA insisted that the individuals open the containers, which were allegedly destined for Somaliland, they refused and fled to the nearby jungle. When the containers were opened, five cheetah cubs were discovered, one which had already died. The four remaining tiny cheetah cubs, estimated to be approximately seven weeks old, were confiscated.

Orphaned Cheetahs © BFF / Stephen Brend

Orphaned Cheetahs © BFF / Stephen Brend

How and why the cheetahs came to be orphaned is unknown though it is likely their mother was killed. The ERCA drove for three days, bringing the cubs, three male and one female, to Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA) headquarters in Addis Ababa.  It is illegal in Ethiopia to hunt and trade cheetahs.  The identities of the smugglers are being investigated and, if caught, they could face up to 30,000 Birr (£1150) and / or three years in jail.

The EWCA Senior Confiscation Officer promptly contacted Born Free Foundation Ethiopia Project Director Stephen Brend who, in conjunction with Born Free Foundation in the UK, agreed to assist with the cheetahs’ care.  Rea, Born Free Ethiopia’s Consultant vet, immediately looked over the cheetahs who, despite being orphaned at such a young age and rather muddy, are in good health.

Orphaned Cheetahs © BFF / Stephen Brend

Orphaned Cheetahs © BFF / Stephen Brend

Somali Regional State has been identified by EWCA as a major area in which wildlife is illegally hunted and transacted. The authority has established a task force in collaboration with the region’s police to prevent these illegal activities.

In partnership with EWCA, Born Free Ethiopia is developing Ensessakotteh, Ethiopia’s first Wildlife Rescue, Conservation and Education Centre.  The cheetahs are now being cared for by Stephen Brend and the team at Ensessakotteh.

If you would like to help Born Free care for these orphaned cheetahs at Ensessakotteh, please consider donating on Born Free’s site or visit our “How you can help” page.

Orphaned Cheetahs © BFF / Stephen Brend

Orphaned Cheetahs © BFF / Stephen Brend

Orphaned Cheetah © BFF / Stephen Brend

Orphaned Cheetah © BFF / Stephen Brend

Orphaned Cheetah © BFF / Stephen Brend

Orphaned Cheetah © BFF / Stephen Brend

The Lion and the Bewitching hour

Those people who like ghost stories will tell you that midnight is the supposed “Bewitching Hour”.  People who work with sick animals know that the real bewitching hour is actually sometime between two and five in the morning; that is when the grim reaper will come.  At that time, it is coldest, darkest, the animal’s metabolism is slowest, and they feel most alone.  And that is why, in the week before Christmas, we were camping out at night at Safia, the lioness’, enclosure.  She was a very sick cat.

It all started on the Monday, the week before, when her carer told us she had vomited during the night.  She was, however, fine for the rest of that day and the Tuesday.  She vomited again on the Wednesday and Thursday, and so we called out Rea Tschopp, our consultant vet.  We all agreed Safia looked ‘off colour’ but was still OK.  Safia was sick on Friday and, on Saturday 18th, stopped eating and drinking.  That well and truly triggered the alarm bell.  Early on Sunday, Rea came back out and we anesthetised her, gave her antibiotics, anti-inflammatorys, lots of fluid and, suspecting a poison, charcoal.

Safia being treated by Rea, the BFFE consultant vet © BFFE

Safia being treated by Rea, the BFFE consultant vet © BFFE

Safia took a long, long time to come around from the anaesthetic and, even on Monday morning, looked miserable.  She rallied a bit with the warmth of Monday’s sun, and actually ate a little.  By Tuesday the 21st, however, she again looked in decline.  She drank nothing all day.  Rea came out as soon as she could but, because it was getting late and hence cold, we took the decision to defer knocking her out again until early the next morning, so she would have the whole day to recover.

The sun set that Tuesday night on a weak and depressed Safia, and a lot of very worried people.  During the early hours of the night she moved into her shelter, where she stayed.  2.20 am found me, wrapped in my blanket, on one side of the partition which separates her space from human-space, with Safia lying listlessly on the other.

I am sure you are all familiar with the expression of “don’t speak too soon” and, certainly, no one would ever accuse me of ‘thinking too soon’, but I did actually think to myself – as I saw her huge head through the mesh not six inches from mine – “You know, I am not that sorry you are not feeling hungry…”.  She approached the mesh divide and I scratched her neck and behind her ears.

Seconds later, Safia did a huge cat stretch; fore-paws out front, rear legs bent but high. and back arched.  She yawned, and then went to her water bowl and started to drink.  There were a few bits of meat to hand which I passed to her and she gobbled down.  And that was that.  I stroked her again and she settled down to sleep as I did until 6 am when she woke, and when I could easily have kept on sleeping.  She walked around a bit and drank some more.  Her whole posture had changed from inward focussed to strong and alert.  The corner had been turned, and the reaper’s scythe was stayed.

Rea and Bereket, my deputy, brought meat up at 8 am, and that disappeared without so much as a sniff.  Lunch time found Safia pouncing around her enclosure looking at us as if to say “why all the fuss?”

I know the answer to that question; we thought we were going to lose her.  That we didn’t was the best possible end to the year.

Safia as she should look © BFFE

Safia as she should look © BFFE

We would also like to say a huge thank you also to John Knight, Born Free Foundation’s Senior Vet Consultant who assisted Rea and Stephen remotely from the UK.

If you would like to support Born Free Ethiopia and Ensessakotteh, please donate to the project here.

To find out more about Ensessakotteh and our rescued animals, please click here.

The Baboon and the Biologist’s Shoe

Do you think the title to this blog is quite catchy: the baboon and the biologist’s shoe?  It makes it sound like one of those popular science books.  The reality though is quite different.  It is a statement of fact.  Kasanchis, the orphan baboon, just loves my shoe. 

When we take him out for play time, if I flick my shoe off it is the number one attraction.  Unfortunately, I can’t show you a photo of it as, when he has it, he moves too quickly at a time when – for obvious reasons – I can’t move quickly!  My shoe beats the purple flowers growing around the place (attraction number 2), the lavender bush (number 3) and the back door (number one if it is open but of no interest if it is closed!).  What is strange though is that Kasanchis only likes the shoe when it is off.  He does not seem to realise it is exactly the same thing when my foot is in it… and baboons are supposed to be intelligent?!

The other un-funny thing about him is what he will turn into.  Up at the site today, I saw a troop of wild baboons pass by.  The alpha male looked huge.  I can not imagine how the noisy but sweet and playful thing, which loves biting shoe leather and trying to work out what laces are for, is going to morph into that!  Needless to say, when he does I guarantee he won’t have access to my shoe, foot and certainly not the back door!

Baby Baboon laughing (not my boot!) © BF Ethiopia

Baby Baboon laughing (not my boot!) © BF Ethiopia

 

Purple flowers – attraction number 2 © BF Ethiopia

Purple flowers – attraction number 2 © BF Ethiopia

 

Will the door at the top be open?! © BF Ethiopia

Will the door at the top be open?! © BF Ethiopia

Kasanchis was discovered in the central reservation of a road in Addis.  As an orphan not old enough to fend for himself it is unfortunate but necessary that Born Free Ethiopia must now hand-raise him.  In future, we will be preparing Kasanchis for rehabilitation with a hope that he can one day be released to the wild, but for now he needs the care and attention that he would have received from his mother in the wild.

A wrong righted, but a problem created

There is never anything right about seeing any animal tied up on a busy road.  The wrong is compounded when it is a wild animal who is plainly miserable or terrified, and is worse again when it is an infant.  Consequently we did not think twice when the Wildlife Authority said they would confiscate a baby baboon that had been seen downtown if we would take it.  Of course we would.

Where Kasanchis was found - can you spot him? © BG / BFF

Where Kasanchis was found - can you spot him? © BG / BFF

Kasanchis before rescue © BG / BFF

Kasanchis before rescue © BG / BFF

Kasanchis before rescue © BG / BFF

Kasanchis before rescue © BG / BFF

And so Kasanchis (named after the suburb where he was found) has found his way into our lives – and into the office, cars and kitchen.  He’s a handful!  Unbelievably, once we had it set up (and secure!) he settled right into his new temporary accommodation, an old aviary.  This will have to be his home while we get something better set up on site.  Kasanchis is very comfortable around people, which definitely helps reduce his stress and trauma, and has readily taken to food, though he won’t touch milk.  That is probably OK,  as he seems to be just passed weaning age.  We guesstimate him to be 4 – 6 months old; weaning can take place as young as three months.   There is not much he won’t eat.  Surprisingly he won’t even look at cucumbers but he just loves acacia pods, which is great as they would form the bulk of his natural diet.  So today, he is happy and healthy.  We can all feel good about that.

What worries me is the future.  He is literally years from being able to survive independently. Even when he is old enough, the odds will still be stacked against him.  Adolescent male olive baboons (Papio anubis) naturally move away from the troop they were born into, but they often do so in pairs or small groups (termed ‘coalitions’).  This helps them win entry into a new troop; there is strength in numbers.  Kasanchis won’t have that advantage; he is likely to be on his own.  If he doesn’t make into a troop what will he do?  Most likely, hang around the centre.  Unfortunately though, a humanised, adult baboon is no one’s idea of a fun neighbour…

Kasanchis after rescue © SB / BFF

Kasanchis after rescue © SB / BFF

So we did the right thing in taking him in, but we should not pretend that the story ends there.  Sadly for him, Kasanchis has still more problems ahead of him.

Stephen

PS I just read the above and thought ‘what a terrible, down note to end on’.  So don’t worry, he may face problems but at least we also have years ahead of us in which to work out a solution.  In the meantime, he is blissfully unaware of anything besides the fact that if he shrieks long enough and shrilly enough a kindly human will bring him food ?

If you would like to help care for Kasanchis and contribute to the Centre, please donate here or consider doing a fundraising event!

Whoops x 1,000

I used to enjoy writing these blogs. Now that I find myself having to confess to a second mistake in two blogs, I am having second thoughts. Last time, I told you we had misidentified the sex of Tanya the tortoise. Compared to yesterday’s mishap, that was nothing. Frankly, whether we call him Tanya or Mattanya, as he is now known, I don’t think upsets a leopard tortoise. Conversely, the animals involved yesterday were both very concerned. Here’s what happened:

Rea Tschopp our consultant vet, was making her routine check. She specifically wanted to look at Sheba, the cheetah, who has a problem with his pelvis. As an aside, cheetahs are very sensitive to early nutritional deficiencies, often suffering bone abnormalities later in life. This is what we suspect happened to Sheba. Certainly, his gait is funny. Consequently, he has been on and off anti-inflammatory tablets for a while. Last month we decided to stop all together for a longer period to see if there was any effect (please don’t get me wrong – we were not “experimenting”. The weather is hotter and drier now, which should cause less trouble for an arthritis-like problem and it is not wise to keep any animal under treatment unnecessarily).

Rea wanted to check how he was doing without the medication. Not a problem. He is a friendly cat, used to people. Tilahun, Menelik and Sheba’s main carer, Rea and I went into their range without really worrying. We had a plan; I would stay with Menelik, the other cheetah in the range, while Rea and Tilahun looked at Sheba.

It went well for about 10 seconds. For whatever reason, but it undoubtedly had something to do with our presence, Sheba flew at Menelik. Rea described him as moving “like a torpedo.” I had a glimpse of the classic cheetah sprint; front and rear feet together in a tight V and then the whole body stretching out again. Magical but alarming.

Menelik Nov10 © BFF / SB

Menelik Nov10 © BFF / SB

Sheba crossed the ground in a flash and barrelled into Menelik who was crouched and hissing. The two then dashed off. Tilahun and I gave chase but there was no doubt we all lived up to our statics of cheetahs being the fastest cats and people being the slowest apes. We got to them a good few moments after they had stopped in a hissing, snarling, screaming, ball of spotted fur. Menelik was on his back raking upwards with his claws; Sheba was on top biting downwards. Tilahun was pulling, we were both shouting, and the cheetahs did not appear to care less.

Suddenly, though, they broke apart and pounced off in separate directions. Fortunately, there was little damage done. Menelik does have two bite wounds on his left rear leg but they are superficial. It was a classic cat fight, “full of sound and fury” but with little serious intent. I cannot speak for the others, but I was certainly shocked. Rea, however, managed to strike a positive note: “well at least we know there is nothing wrong with Sheba’s running.” She’s right, and that is good news.

I took away a rather different message, though, and it is one I should have learnt 1,000 times by now. It does not matter what you think is going to happen, or what you think the animals will do. Think what they think is going to happen, and be prepared for them to do anything.

Whoops!

A couple of weeks ago I told you about Tanya the leopard tortoise.  I also (unwisely it now seems) wrote that it was easy to tell male and female tortoises apart.  Well, it obviously is not that straight forward – I have just seen Tanya behaving in a very unladylike fashion to one of the tortoises we have seen being mounted before (in fact, the one in the photo which accompanied the earlier blog).  Perhaps it is time we renamed Tanya Thomas…