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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 November 2006, 01:09 GMT
Rare zoo lion cubs poisoned
By Amber Henshaw
BBC News, Addis Ababa

Dead lion cubs
The zoo's lion cull is blamed on budget restrictions
Rare Abyssinian lion cubs are being poisoned at a zoo in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, and their bodies are then sold on to be stuffed.

The zoo, founded by Ethiopia's former Emperor Haile Selassie, says it poisons a number of cubs each year because it does not have the space or money to look after them.

"We can send them to the forest and to some governmental palaces but most of the time we send them to the taxidermists," said the Lion Zoo administrator Muhedin Abdulaziz.

He said the taxidermists paid about $175 (90) for each cub and they were then sold for $400 (210).

No-one at the zoo is happy about the situation and local conservationists are angry.

Sanctuary

One Ethiopian conservationist, who did not want to be named, said he had been offered 11 cubs last year.

"They told me I could take and keep them but I don't have land to keep them... and it was not easy to get land."

They kill them by poison and automatically they are taken to the taxidermist's office
Muhedin Abdulaziz, Lion Zoo
"Finally, I was told they gave them to the taxidermists and they were killed and poisoned."

Emperor Haile Selassie started the Lion Zoo 57 years ago.

It collected lions from across the country and was a symbol of his reign.

The Abyssinian Lion is distinguished by its small size and the male's black mane.

Eight pairs of lions live in the zoo, which is in the Siddist Kilo area of Addis Ababa. There are currently three cubs there.

Few lions remain in Ethiopia's game parks.

The conservationist said he would like to see sanctuaries set up around the country for the lion cubs.

"If we have a sanctuary, or maybe we can reintroduce them back into the wild, that can preserve natural resources," he said.

It is something that Mr Muhedin would also like to see.

Poison

He said the zoo was asking its bosses to expand so it did not have to keep poisoning the cubs.

Stuffed lion
The taxidermists pay $175 for each lion cub
"For the time-being our immediate solution is to send them to the taxidermists but the final and best solution is to extend the zoo into a wider area."

Mr Muhedin said the wildlife office sent vets to kill the unwanted lions.

"They kill them by poison and automatically they are taken to the taxidermist's office.

Tadesse Haile from the Ethiopian Wildlife Department said he did not have any information about it and that he had never heard of cubs being poisoned.

Between 1,000 and 1,200 people visit the zoo each day. Meat to feed the lions costs about $4,000 (2,100) a month.

The Lion Zoo is also home to baboons, monkeys, rabbits, Egyptian geese and goldfish.


SEE ALSO
UK diplomats fear Addis leopard
09 Oct 06 |  Africa
Country profile: Ethiopia
25 Oct 06 |  Country profiles



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