Located just 30km from Addis Ababa the capital of Ethiopia, the Centre is situated in an impressive natural part-wooded area of just over 77 hectares (190 acres). This is the land personally identified by His Excellency, President Girma Wolde-Giorgis and allocated to Born Free Ethiopia by the Regional Government of Oromiya. The land agreement signed in 2009 grants the land to Born Free Ethiopia for an indefinite period in order to establish the Wildlife Rescue, Conservation and Education Centre.
In order to best realise the potential for the land, Born Free worked with a specialised team made up of Australian Landscape Architects - Taylor, Cullity and Lethlean; David Hancocks, Peter Stroud, John Knight and the first Country Representative, James Young. A Masterplan for the Centre was subsequently designed to create a functional and aesthetically pleasing facility to complement the beautiful landscape of the area.
This plan effectively divides the land into different zones. There is the sanctuary area where the rescued animals are cared for and which is only accessible via escourted tours; a public access area where visitors can relax and enjoy the natural surroundings, and which will feature a Visitor Centre, and a private service area.
In April 2015 former President of the FDRE, Girma Wolde-Giorgis was joined by Virginia McKenna OBE, to mark the official opening of the new visitor and education centre at Ethiopia’s famous Ensessakotteh, Wildlife Rescue, Conservation and Education Centre. The ceremony also celebrated the completion of an important new lion enclosure at the centre that will provide a natural and desperately needed refuge for rescued lions.
The ceremony took place in a verdant valley, some 30 kilometres from the capital, Addis Ababa. This natural and picturesque location provides Ensessakotteh with a calm and natural haven for animals that have been confiscated from poachers and the illegal pet trade. Many dignitaries were in attendance at this prestigious event, including Dawud Mume Ali, Director General of the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority; and Adam M Roberts, CEO of the Born Free Foundation. A charming choir of local children poignantly sang ‘Born Free’ at the ceremony.
Virginia McKenna said, “The creation and development of Ensessakotteh has always held a special place in my heart. Rescuing wild animal victims, combined with educating and inspiring people of all ages about Ethiopia’s unique and beautiful wild creatures, is something I feel deeply about. It symbolises Born Free’s belief in compassionate conservation, its focus on the individual and its commitment to protect the ever diminishing natural environment. I hope our Tree House Education Centre will become a place of understanding and inspiration. I am deeply grateful to former President Girma and to the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority for their generosity and trust.”
This development at Ensessakotteh is part of a commitment by Born Free to offer educational facilities and programmes in support of conservation in Ethiopia. The charity is devoted to compassionate conservation and animal welfare, taking action worldwide to protect threatened species and stop individual animal suffering.
Dr Zelealem Tefera, Born Free Ethiopia’s Country Representative manages the centre. He said: “This is an important day in the history of Ethiopia. For the first time children and the communities in and around Addis Ababa, and Ethiopia as a whole, will have a first class wildlife education facility. They can come and visit Ensessakotteh and learn about the importance of our natural wildlife heritage. Born Free Ethiopia has a close working relationship with EWCA. The team at Ensessakotteh conduct conservation and environmental education programmes, as well as help the government with wildlife management. The new lion facility will further support our vital work combatting the deadly trade in wild animals.”