Farewell Barega

We are extremely sad to share the news that our precious rescued male cheetah Barega, who lived at Ensessa Kotteh wildlife centre in Ethiopia, passed away last month.  

An adult cheetah lying on the grass looking relaxed.

Barega, happy and relaxed at Ensessa Kotteh © Born Free

Barega, who was named in honour of the Ethiopian athlete Selemon Barega Shirtaga, was just a cub when he arrived at Ensessa Kotteh in March 2020, shortly before the Covid-19 lockdown was declared in Ethiopia. He was rescued with a female cheetah, his sister Pollyanna, after being confiscated from illegal wildlife traffickers and kept in a police station for nearly three months.  

Sadly, Barega joined us in poor health but, with world-class care, he gradually improved and settled into his new, much happier life. He got on famously with Pollyanna and the affectionate pair rarely strayed far from one another, playing together, then grooming each other. Barega and Pollyanna lived together until August 2022, when Pollyanna sadly passed away after a short illness.

Although our team looked after Barega expertly, including an excellent diet, cheetahs are an extremely sensitive species and it was simply not possible to make up for all he had suffered before his rescue. Being removed from his mother at such a young age, given completely inadequate care and fed an incorrect diet had taken its toll on Barega’s vulnerable immune system. Cheetahs often hide symptoms of illness until it’s too late to provide any helpful treatment. Barega’s passing was unexpected, he had shown no indication of being unwell until shortly before he died.

“Barega was a playful character and could often be seen engaging in a game with the enrichment we placed in his enclosure every day,” explains our Ethiopian Country Director Bereket Girma. “After his outdoor area had been cleaned, Barega was always very eager to explore and find what new enrichment had been left for him.”

“As soon as the door was opened, he would run around his enclosure and try to find his ‘boomer ball’ – a big solid bright football which our rescued cheetahs love to chase. Another favoured enrichment item for Barega was a specially made ball full of native herbs, which allowed him to use his keen sense of smell to sniff out various scents. Barega would then pull out the contents of the ball, then roll around rubbing the scent over himself, making him smell pungent and fresh! ”

We are heartbroken to lose Barega, but what a comfort to know we could give him several happy and enriched years. He will be greatly missed, especially by our remarkable Ensessa Kotteh team. Our work continues to care for rescued cheetah and end the terrible illegal wild pet trade, not least in this remarkable species.