HAPS is back at work in Ethiopia
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2004:
ADDIS ABABA–The Homeless Animal Protection Society of
Ethiopia has survived six months of bureaucratic attack by proponents
of killing street dogs, cofounders Efrem Legese and Hana Kifle
e-mailed to ANIMAL PEOPLE on July 5, 2004.
“After all the pressure to destroy us and HAPS through
misinformation became exposed,” Legese and Kifle wrote, “about 98%
of all the higher officials, the local community, and the staff of
Bale Mountains National Park promised to stand beside us and help in
any way they can. We pray for longer life and health so that we can
stop the suffering of homeless dogs here in Ethiopia.”
In June 2004, Legese explained, “The Oromiya Civil Service
commission law court decided that we should return to our work, with
all our salaries paid since the day we were suspended unjustly,” in
Oromiya Rural Land and Natural Resource Authority director Siraaj Bakkalii
Shaffee refused to accept the verdict, Legese said, and
tried to have Legese and Kifle arrested. Legese and Kifle turned
themselves in to the Bale Zone Police Department, who found that the
court had already dismissed the charges.
Radio Ethiopia amplified the outcome.
Legese and Kifle were suspended from their jobs at Bale
Mountains National Park without pay, and were later sent notices of
dismissal, after they told ANIMAL PEOPLE and Radio Ethiopia reporter
Aschalew Getachew about the delayed and tactically inept response of
the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organization and Ethiopian Wolf
Conservation Programme to a rabies outbreak.
Legese was the Bale Mountains National Park acting head of
finance and administration. Kifle, the first female to hold a high
post at the park, was head of the 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 argued in ANIMAL PEOPLE that
sterilization and vaccination should be extended to homeless dogs as
well. ANIMAL PEOPLE publisher Kim Bartlett helped Legese and Kifle
to form HAPS, to seek funding to sterilize and vaccinate homeless
dogs on their own. Bartlett also helped them to obtain training at
Dogs Trust in London, the 2002 International Companion Animal
Welfare Conference, and the 2003 All Africa Humane Education Summit.
The EWCP quit sterilizing and vaccinating dogs at Bale in
July 2003, claiming that there were no homeless dogs in the region.
In five years, according to the EWCP annual reports, it had
vaccinated 1,475 dogs total. In October 2003, after controversy
over the rabies outbreak developed, the EWCP claimed to have
vaccinated 2,000 to 2,500 dogs per year.
The rabies outbreak was first reported by Kifle, who in
August 2003 photographed an Ethiopian wolf with an apparent bite
wound to her head. The wolf was 25 miles outside any known wolf
habitat and acting strangely.
Believing the wolf to be rabid, Kifle notified her superiors.
The EWCP and Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organization did
not acknowledge the rabies outbreak until mid-October 2003. By then
it had spread to street dogs and livestock. As well as introducing
oral vaccination of the endangered wolves, the EWCP and EWCO
recommended shooting homeless dogs.
ANIMAL PEOPLE in November 2003 published Kifle’s photo of the
suspected 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–toward the wolves.
Radio Ethiopia soon afterward affirmed the same essentials.
“We have shown that it is impossible to protect the Ethiopian
wolf by vaccinating and neutering only owned dogs while poisoning and
shooting the homeless dogs,” Legese said. “This activity was not
effective at all. We pointed out that it may cause the mass death of
the endangered wolves. Deaths have already happened. HAPS plans to
secure the wolves from extinction by filling the gap in protection
from rabies resulting from the omission of homeless dogs from the
EWCP project implementation.”
The retaliatory firings of Legese and Kifle eventually
alerted public officials, news media, and the judiciary, Legese
said, that “The EWCP is a non-governmental organization which has no
legal status in Ethiopia, and has apparently filed no document which
shows its work, financial and material activities. The EWCP
employees have had no work permits and never paid taxes until the
past few months.
“No one,” Legese continued, “has a clear record about what
the Bale Rabies Control Project has done.” Accordingly, Legese
said, the Ethiopian Ministry of Justice has begun an investigation
of the activities of the EWCP.
The EWCP was founded by Argentin-ian biologist Claudio
Sillero, who since 2002 has been conservation director for the Born
Free Foundation. Sillero was succeeded as EWCP chief by Stuart
Williams. The EWCO animal health team leader is Fekadu Shiferaw,