Help at last for the Addis Ababa zoo

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2006:

ADDIS ABABA–That little was done for more than 30 years to
improve the Haile Selassie Zoo in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, might be
no surprise, in view of the usually dilapidated state of African
zoos–but the zoo holds a well-documented population of the rarest of
all lion subspecies, believed to be the oldest captive lion colony
in existence.
The black-maned Atlas lion, Barbary lion, or Lion of Judah,
hauled to Imperial Rome by the thousands for use and slaughter in
Colossium spectacles, was extirpated from Libya by 1700, from Egypt
by 1800, from Tunisia in 1891, from Algeria in 1912, and from
Morocco in 1921. This was a year after the lion was deleted from the
World Encyclopedia of Animals as already extinct.

Unknown to science, those in the Ethiopian palace menagerie lived on.
After Selassie was overthrown in 1974, the menagerie was
opened to the pubic, but is rarely visited by non-Ethiopians. Some
lions were sold from time to time. A few descendants, hybridized
with common lions, reached the U.S. and Europe through circuses.
The 11 Atlas lions then remaining in Addis Ababa were
recognized in 1976 by South African veterinarian Hym Ebedes.
“Over the past 35 years I have seen hundreds of wild lions,”
Ebedes told media, “but I have never seen anything so majestic and
magnificent. The sight of a black-maned lion pacing around his cage
had an indescribable spine-chilling effect on me.”
Despite the attention that the rediscovered Lions of Judah
received at the time, there was no apparent follow-through on their
behalf, Israeli consular employee Einat Danieli found in August
2006, making her first zoo visit just six weeks before she was
transferred from Addis Ababa to Toronto.
“The zoo is very small and now includes only four Atlas
lions,” Danieli told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “There are three cages of
primates: three Chellada baboons and three Colubus monkeys. The
animals are fed and their cages are cleaned from time to time, but
the lions are in a very small area with one cave to hide in and no
stimulation. The area was made even smaller by the collapse of
another cave that killed a lioness and one of her cubs. The primate
cages are concrete and netting, without shelter from rain or sun.
Their food is scattered on the floor, without any stimulation
available. The female baboon is sick, and we are afraid she won’t
last the rainy season.”
Danieli unsuccessfully sought help for the Addis Ababa Zoo
animals from zoo organizations and wildlife protection societies in
the U.S. and Europe. Meanwhile, Danieli reported on September 20,
“We managed to collect funding from our friends to fix the primates’
cages and equip them with proper shelters and climbing facilities,
branches, and feeding toys,” from which extricating food is a
mental challenge.
Danieli also wants to improve the lion habitat “by giving
training to the zoo staff and by connecting the zoo with an
organization that could give them proper funding and guidance about
how to preserve these lions in the best conditions possible.”
In addition, Danieli hopes to rescue “a common lion who was
captured young and has been held ever since” by a local exhibitor “in
a small cage, restrained by chains, in the southern region of
Ethiopia near the Somali border.” Suffering from an ingrown collar,
the lion “can only walk 2 steps because of the chains and is hardly
fed,” Danieli told ANIMAL PEOPLE, sending photos “The wildlife
department is willing to allow the lion to leave Ethiopia, but will
only take him if there is a place that will agree to adopt him.”
Despite her move to Canada, Danieli pledged to follow
through on her initiatives for the captive wildlife of Ethiopia. She
welcomes help c/o <>.

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