Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Rescued from 'Jungle Land'

The Purpose: To rescue captive primates, a duiker, rabbits, an Egyptian goose, guinea fowl and a giant tortoise.

The Reason: The owner of this small zoo had no license to keep wild animals and the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA) was prosecuting him and closing the zoo down.  They had asked us to take the animals and re-home them at Ensessakotteh – our Rescue Centre outside of Addis Ababa.

Thursday 21st November.  Aboard a flight from Dira Dewa to Addis Ababa.

Report by Virginia McKenna

We flew to Jungleland the previous day with vet Dr Johan Joubert (Wildlife Director from Shamwari in South Africa), so we could understand a little of the task ahead.

The animal cages lined up behind the swings

Imagine a row of dark, small rusted cages stretching along one side of the area. Eight primates to rescue.  Stephen Brend, our Ensessakotteh Manager was driving up with our Deputy Manager, Bereket Girma, with the crates, equipment and veterinary drugs.  The first step on the way to a new life would begin early the next morning.

I think the overall impression I got from looking at these animals was their depression and withdrawal.  Some, obviously, had physical wounds, disabilities – but who could live  in these fearful, grim cages and not be affected by it?  Some for ten years or more.

A baboon peers from her cage, unaware this is her last day confined by these rusty bars

Next morning arrived.  Stephen, Johan and Bereket organised the crates and carrying cages and set up the veterinary table nearby.  Unfortunately the vehicles couldn’t get near, so the crated animals would need to be carried up through the steep property, through the café, to the Landrover and truck waiting outside.

Stephen used a dart gun to sedate the large males.  The smaller females he managed to constrain, wearing very thick protective gloves, while Johan injected the sedative by hand.  Some, incredibly, did not need sedation and were constrained and then lifted directly into their travelling crates.

Bereket and Johan start to load the animals
Stephen collects the last resident - a giant tortoise
Stephen removes the doors from the cages ready to be destroyed, an extra deterent to prevent their possible future use

Amazingly, it only took about one and a half hours.  The next one and a half hours involved the rest of the animals, talking to the owner and taking one last look at this sad, run down place which should never have housed any animals in the first place.

At the top of the property, on entering, you pass a dilapidated wire fronted cage which houses 70 – 80 pigeons.  I spoke to the owner and he said he will take down the mesh so that the birds will be free to fly in the very dense and lovely woodland which surrounds their bleak and sterile ‘home’.  I have asked him to send me a photo when this is done, which he promised to do.

EWCA explain the situation to the media
Bereket ready to start the long drive to Ensessakotteh

As I write, the animals, Stephen, Johan and Bereket are on their way to Ensessakotteh.  A long drive during which they will make several stops to check the animals, give them water and ensure, as much as possible, that this bewildering and stressful experience will not be too traumatic.  Tomorrow they will be safe in the centre, feel the grass, the fresh air, explore their new home.

For me, this has been a special and important experience.  I have always felt that not enough focus is given to smaller animals – who perhaps lack the big charismatic personality of the big cats.  But these too are amazing creatures and deserve our respect and understanding.  This they will certainly get at Ensessakotteh.

And although we may not, this time, be bringing large and dramatic creatures to the Centre – we are being one giant tortoise.  And that makes it even more wonderful!


UPDATE by Alison Hood: Director – Rescue & Care

Stephen, Johan and Bereket arrived at the Centre at 10.30pm that evening.  The long drive over, they switched off the engines and the quiet of Ensessakotteh enveloped them.  They decided to leave the animals in their travel crates overnight and unload at first light the next morning. 

When they jumped up onto the back of the truck for one final inspection of the animals, and to refill their water bowls, they saw that the Olive baboon was dead. She had been the one who sat in the back corner of her dark, dirty, sunless cage and watched. When Stephen went to put her into her travel box, she offered little resistance, and we knew she was not well.  Johan checked on her regularly during the drive and she remained weak, but she just did not make that last leg. 

Johan performed an autopsy and it revealed a very poorly animal.  She had been suffering from a chronic lung infection which had strained the heart – both her lungs and heart were in very poor condition. She is buried at Ensessakoteh. The end of a wasted and pitiful life

The olive baboon as we found her. We knew she was not well
Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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