The exchange visit

How do you provide the best possible care for a rescued big cat?! Our sanctuary team from South Africa recently paid a visit to our centre in Ethiopia to swap ideas. Born Free Manager Catherine Gillson reports.  

Three people standing with their arms around each other, under a shady pergola

There is so much to be excited about today, most especially the birthday* of the two young lions, rescued from Ukraine, to help usher in a new year of exciting happenings. Happy 3rd birthday Tsar and Jamil! We can’t wait to meet you soon and welcome you to your ancestral home. 

Catherine Gillson

It was a privilege to recently have been afforded the opportunity to visit our colleagues at Born Free’s Ensessa Kotteh, Ethiopia, following their visit to us last year. Born Free Shamwari Animal Care Manager and Supervisor, Glen Vena and Martin Miritiawo accompanied me for this life-changing experience.

The visit was filled with humbling and eye-opening moments. Ethiopia has its hardships including political complications. However, everyone we met in our travels, most especially our colleagues at Ensessa Kotteh, proved that there is hope and positivity in the people and there is light for the wildlife with the attitude and commitment of the Born Free Ethiopia team.

Ensessa Kotteh is truly a sanctuary for the animals who have been rescued primarily from the illegal wildlife trade and is an oasis on the outskirts of the nation’s capital. We spent time meeting with our colleagues who have an impressively wide skill set, ranging from Tenagne, a specialist farmer of herbs grown for the enrichment of the animals under the team’s care (and expert coffee brewer); to Anyano, our passionate new Education Officer who comes to us with first-hand experience of Born Free’s Education programme!

Two cheetah cubs, one standing looking out a window aand one sitting looking at the camera

Ramadan and Fasika (c) Bereket Girma

The Animal Care team spent much time together sharing ideas on feeding, enrichment, enclosure care and management and comparing the personalities of all they care for. We even caught a glimpse of the newly rescued cheetah cubs Fasika and Ramadan at their feed time.

The Education Team led by Lemessa introduced us to some of the schools Born Free partners with and the brilliant work they are doing with the youth in the wider community. Along with Born Free’s Managing Director Karen Botha, our exceptional Ethiopian Country Manager, Bereket Girma, explained every detail of their operations with us delving into how we could work together to ease logistics, management and operational challenges and share solutions to problems from previous experiences.

The environment in Ethiopia is difficult but, with the assistance of our Born Free supporters who make our wonderful work for wild animals possible, the team at Ensessa Kotteh is a shining example of passion and dedication to the cause. I left feeling deeply humbled, grateful and with renewed energy to make a difference for the animals.

Thank you Bereket and team for your amazing dedication! Readers can help support ALL our work for rescued wild animals by adopting King the lion, the Cheetah Family and the Leopard Family – thank you! 


*Tsar and Jamil were born in January 2021. We don’t know the exact day, so we have chosen to make January 31st their birthday and celebrate them today!