US soldiers flew two endangered cheetah cubs to this Ethiopian capital yesterday, after instigating their rescue from a village where a restaurant owner had held them captive and abused them.
The male and female cubs, whom the soldiers had named Scout and Patch, were released on the grounds of the Ethiopian president's official residence after their 680-mile journey from the eastern hamlet of Gode, in the Ogaden.
''This is the first kind of rescue of animals, let alone cheetahs, that we have done," said Sergeant Leah Cobble, 26, of Washington, as she cuddled the two cubs at Bole International Airport before handing them to a government veterinarian, Fekadu Shiferaw.
The saga of the cubs started last month when US counterterrorism troops, carrying out humanitarian work in the Gode region, found that the animals' owner was keeping them tied up with ropes around their necks at his restaurant and forcing them to fight each other for the amusement of patrons and village children. One cub is blind in one eye.
The soldiers alerted the Ethiopian government and a US-based cheetah rescue organization, drawing international attention to the cubs' plight. They also tried to persuade the restaurant owner, Mohamed Hudle, to hand over the cubs, but he wanted $1,000 for each animal.
That sum amounts to 10 times the average income in this impoverished nation of 77 million people in eastern Africa.
Fekadu, the veterinarian, intervened. He flew to the village Saturday, confiscated the cubs, and handed them over to US forces for transport. The vet said that the owner had not been paid for the animals, and that both cheetahs had received antibiotic treatment and appeared to be in good health.
''Had we not had the help of the US military, it would not have been possible to rescue these animals," Fekadu said after arriving with the cubs aboard the US plane.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
K.M. | Wednesday, November 30, 2005 |