Ethiopian animal advocates lose jobs for exposing dog shooting
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2004:
ADDIS ABABA–Homeless Animal Protection Society of Ethiopia
cofounders Efrem Legese and Hana Kifle were on January 23, 2004
suspended from their jobs at Bale Mountains National Park without
pay, and as of February 23 imminently anticipated termination
notices from Oromiya Rural Land and Natural Resource Authority
director Siraaj Bakkalii Shaffee.
Their apparent offense, not spelled out in their letters of
notification of suspension, is that they shared information with
ANIMAL PEOPLE and Radio Ethiopia about the delayed and tactically
inept response of the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organization
and Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme to an ongoing rabies
outbreak at the park, as detailed in the November and December 2003
editions of ANIMAL PEOPLE.
Dinsho town council chair Tessema Hailu, agitating to have
homeless dogs in the Dinsho region killed, precipitated the
suspensions and probable firings of Legese and Kifle by writing to
Siraaj Bakkalii Shaffee that they had “performed activities which can
affect the fundraising process of the EWCP,” Legese told ANIMAL
“At the same time [EWCP veterinarian] Karen Laurenson
promised financial support to the Oromiya government for the park,”
Legese alleged. “Then, she came to Bale with [fellow EWCP
veterinarian] Fekadu Shiferaw and told the EWCP workers that ‘Hana
and Efrem are going to be fired from their work in the near future
and HAPS will never work any more in Bale on dogs.'”
A week later, Legese continued, “Siraaj Bakkalii Shaffee,
the newly assigned head of the Oromiya government, warned us to
leave HAPS,” at a staff meeting.
“I tried my best to tell about the importance of HAPS for the
community, animals and Ethiopia,” Legese related. “He left
shouting that he was going to fire us.”
Oromiya officials “also went to HAPS Branch office in Dinsho
and terrified our members by telling them that they would soon remove
the HAPS signboard and announce it through the media,” Legese said.
The Bale Mountains National Park rabies outbreak jeopardizes
the survival of the last wild population of Ethiopian wolves. It
occurred just as Legese and Kifle had warned since 2001 that an
outbreak might, if efforts were not made to vaccinate and sterilize
the homeless dogs of nearby villages as well as the few dogs who are
claimed by specific people.
Legese was the longtime Bale Mountains National Park acting
head of finance and administration.
Kifle, the first female to hold a position of authority at
the park, was head of the park development and protection section.
The EWCP, sponsored by the Born Free Foundation and the
World Wildlife Fund, began sterilizing and vaccinating pets and
working dogs in the villages near Bale in 1999. Legese and Kifle
In March 2001 Legese sent ANIMAL PEOPLE an extensive
compilation of photographs, interviews with villagers, a videotape,
and a detailed hand-drawn map, documenting the presence and behavior
of local homeless dogs. Legese expressed concern that the EWCP
practice of shooting at homeless dogs was both pointlessly cruel and
counterproductive, as was the previous government practice of
EWCP program founder Claudio Sillero contended that shooting
homeless dogs was often necessary not only to prevent rabies, but
also because the dogs might hybridize with the wolves. Hybridization
did happen on one known occasion, when the wolf population was near
the lowest level on record.
Legese pointed out that shots fired at one dog scare all of
the dogs into the bush, toward the wolves. Otherwise the dogs stay
close to the peripheral villages.
Legese argued that the sterilization and vaccination services
offered to pet and working dogs should be extended to the homeless
dogs, as is done successfully in many parts of India, Costa Rica,
and other places with similar issues.
After ANIMAL PEOPLE published Legese’s guest essay “The dogs
of Bale” in May 2001, ANIMAL PEOPLE publisher Kim Bartlett helped
Legese and Kifle to form HAPS, to seek funding to sterilize and
vaccinate homeless dogs on their own, and arranged for them to take
advantage of training opportunities at the Dogs Trust in London, the
2002 International Companion Animal Welfare Conference, and the All
Africa Humane Education Summit in September 2003. All of this was
done while Legese and Kifle were on unpaid vacation time.
Sillero moved to England in 2002 as conservation director for
the Born Free Foundation. He was succeeded in Ethiopia by Stuart
Williams. In July 2003 the EWCP ceased sterilizing and vaccinating
any dogs. Williams claimed then that there were no homeless dogs in
the Bale region.
In five years, according to the EWCP annual reports, it had
vaccinated 1,475 dogs total. In October 2003, however, the EWCP
would claim to have vaccinated between 2,000 and 2,500 dogs per year.
Kifle in August 2003 photographed an Ethiopian wolf with an
apparent bite wound to the back of her head, who was 25 miles
outside any known wolf habitat and acting strangely. Believing the
wolf to be rabid, Kifle reported the incident to her superiors.
Kifle and Legese in late September 2003 told ANIMAL PEOPLE of
the incident and expressed worry that nothing was being done to
arrest a rabies outbreak which appeared among dogs and livestock
several weeks after Kifle saw the suspect wolf.
The EWCP and Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organization
acknowledged the rabies outbreak in mid-October 2003. As well as
introducing oral vaccination of the endangered wolves, they
recommended a resumption of shooting homeless dogs.
ANIMAL PEOPLE in November 2003 published Kifle’s photo of the
probably rabid wolf, plus one of a series of photos obtained by
Legese of officials shooting at dogs as they fled into the Bale
Mountains National Park interior.
Radio Ethiopia sent a team to the park a few weeks later,
affirming the same essentials.
Legese and Kifle, with numerous dependents, were paid $285 per month.
Still working to improve the lot of homeless dogs, they may
be contacted c/o <email@example.com>.