Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dolo's Eyes

There's a very profound and literal saying that has always resonated with me. It applies to all sentient beings. It is: 

Saving the life of one animal may not change the world,
but for that one animal, the world is changed forever.

This is the story of how many people worked together to save the life of one lion named Dolo. Dolo's world will now be forever changed. 

His eyes tell his story

While it's true that not every animal can be saved, the idea of giving up or turning one's back on an animal in need or distress is unconscionable. Today I'd like to share the story of Dolo the lion with you. Dolo is a lion who's endured a life of misery. He was tied by a 1m chain (a little over a yard long), in a small cage. Dolo's name comes from the small town of Dolo in Ethiopia where he was kept for the first four years of his life, confined inside a cage as a tourist attraction. Dolo is a small town near the Ethiopia/Somalia border. The chain was far too tight around his neck and he couldn't move around freely due to the length of the chain. This was life as he knew it. No freedom of movement, never able to run, play, or do any of the things all lions should experience. He was serving solely as a tourist attraction to be gawked at, yelled at, teased and humiliated.

The Wildlife Department of Ethiopia became aware of Dolo and the conditions in which he was being kept, and decided to intervene on his behalf. They reached out to Born Free for assistance. Born Free has quickly come to the aid of many, many animals in dire straits and they didn't disappoint Dolo. Their Wildlife Rescue, Conservation and Education Centre was still in the process of being built and not near completion, so arrangements had to be made to find suitable temporary housing for Dolo until he could be permanently placed in a large enclosure with trees and grass. His life was soon to change, but many things had to be prepared for his confiscation, transportation, veterinary care and checkup, and temporary housing. Dolo's care and well-being was at the top of the priority list, so all of these issues had to be taken care of as quickly as possible in order to remove him and get him to a healthy environment.

Here's the story of Dolo, brought to you by Born Free. All photos, videos and information below is the property of its respective owners.

In March 2011, George Logan, multi-award winning photographer and Born Free friend, joined the Born Free Foundation team in Ethiopia for a very important and special journey -- bringing Dolo the lion to Ensessakotteh where he would have the space and privacy he deserves as well as grass under his paws for the first time.

George's documentation of Dolo's momentous translocation has now been developed into this short video, kindly produced by Duncan Smith.

George Logan is a long-term supporter of Born Free Foundation and the proceeds from his impressive book, "Translocation", which seamlessly and cleverly brings together the wild animals of Africa with the wild landscapes of Scotland, are generously being donated to Ensessakotteh. 

You can purchase George's book here -

For more information on Dolo and Ensessakotteh, please visit

Dolo in 2007
Photo by Sisay Taye

Many of Born Free Foundation's projects and campaigns require us to be persistent, patient and prepared to commit for the long haul. Our plans initiated in 2006 to develop Ethiopia's first Wildlife Rescue, Conservation and Education Centre have required these very qualities. However, with support from the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority and His Excellency President Wolde-Giorgis, we are now starting to bring benefit to many rescued wild animals who need our care.

Dolo in temporary housing
Photo by George Logan

In a reflection of the virtues needed to develop Ensessakotteh, one animal in particular has demonstrated his own fortitude – Dolo. An iconic image of this young male lion suffering helped trigger plans for the Centre (see above). Dolo was originally held on a one metre long chain for four years before his removal to a temporary facility in Ethiopia’s Awash National Park.

Finalising the land agreement and sourcing building materials took their time, but finally, on March 22nd 2011, Dolo was moved to his new lifetime care facility at our Centre which will offer him space, shade and peace. A large team including BF Ethiopia Project Director Stephen Brend and Vet Consultant Rea Tschopp, Born Free Foundation Founder Virginia McKenna, Programmes Director Alison Hood, Senior Vet Consultant John Knight and many more accompanied Dolo on his relocation.

A beautiful Ethiopian sunrise welcomed this momentous day for Dolo and after being tranquilised and given a health check by Rea Tschopp, he was placed in a specially made travel crate for the 250km journey to Ensessakotteh. An excited convoy followed Dolo back to Holeta and watched as he took his first tentative steps into his new indoor shelter and bushy sub-range.

Dolo's rescue  © George Logan
Our first task is to ensure Dolo is settled in.  Sadly, when we darted him and performed a veterinary exam just prior to his move, our fears about his eyesight were confirmed.  Dolo has retinal atrophy, probably due to a nutritional deficiency when young and this has left him with very limited vision.  He must therefore get used to his new environment; a space far bigger and more complex and stimulating than anything he has experienced before.
Already he is exploring and his posture and demeanour is improving. Dolo is still a young lion and we hope that ‘Ensessakotteh’ will work its magic on him; turning him from a despondent, depressed animal on the end of a chain to a handsome male who can lay claim to his territory and who will explore the bushes and trees and find a few favourite shady spots to rest up in. 
Project Director Stephen Brend reports that “Today, his roar sounds out across Ensessakotteh, and he has space, grass under foot, peace and privacy. He can work his muscles and he can stretch up against the fence higher than he has ever been able to stretch in his life.”

Dolo in his new enclosure © George Logan
Now that we have completed the building of a secure lion enclosure; which gives consideration to the materials available, the cost and, vitally, the provision of a multifaceted environment for the lions, work will begin on the second lifetime care enclosure.  There are already several animals waiting to come to the Rescue Centre with Dolo leading the way for the lions!
Born Free Foundation would like to offer heartfelt thanks to The Cullum Family Trust, Einat Danieli and Born Free Foundation members for supporting the relocation of Dolo and the development of his enclosure - the first lifetime care enclosure at Ensessakotteh!
If you would like to help Born Free to create Ensessakotteh, please consider making a donation andread about other ways you can help here.

Thank you for taking the time to read about Dolo's rescue. There are more lions and other animals out there who need our help and intervention. Animals Matter.


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