Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Rescue of Menelik the cheetah cub

17 December 2008

Categories: Big Cats Campaign News, Homepage News

Menelik tied up © Guy Calaf

Menelik after a week © Guy Calaf

Menelik in grass © Amanda Blewett

Menelik playing © JY/BF

James Young, the Project Director of the Wildlife Rescue, Conservation and Education centre is writing a blog on the development of the Centre.  This Blog is to share the story of Menelik, the cheetah cub that James is now caring for until enclosures at the Centre are constructed.

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.

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 (for the full story on Wildlife Direct click here) 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.

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 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.

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.

Please do help our project if you can.

The Wildlife Rescue, Conservation and Education Centre will cost around UK£600,000 to build.

Enclosures 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.


Born Free's New Year Appeal will be in aid of the Ethiopian Wildlife Rescue, Conservation and Education Centre - click here to visit the page of the Appeal and to donate.

For more information on the Centre please click here and should you want more information please contact us here at Born Free.

For the rest of this and for previous blogs, please visit 

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

Share | |