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09.02.2010 Press Release

Ethiopia’s President and Born Free launch Nation’s First Wildlife Rescue, Conservation and Education Centre -Unique; Important; Compassionate; a Dream

By Kate Chapman
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One of the most exciting new wild animal welfare, conservation and education projects in Africa got underway today when His Excellency, President Girma Wolde Giorgis unveiled the foundation stone for Ethiopia's first Wildlife Rescue, Conservation and Education Centre, at a site near Holeta, 23km west of the country's capital, Addis Ababa.

“It is rare that a project comes along which receives such universal support and helps inspire the animal welfare and conservation agenda of a nation. This new Centre is such a project.” proclaimed Will Travers, CEO of the Born Free Foundation, the project's UK-based international wildlife charity partner.

Set against the stunning backdrop of Ethiopia's dramatic highland scenery the foundation stone-laying ceremony was attended by over 100 people, including representatives from Federal and Regional Governments, Holeta Municipality, NGO's, Foreign Embassies and members of the local community.

This Federal Project is the result of a unique partnership between the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA), the Oromiya National Regional State and the Born Free Foundation.

Plans for the Centre bring together for the first time high quality animal care, public education and wildlife conservation initiatives. Future operations will focus on lifetime care facilities for rescued wild animals found within Ethiopia, an Environmental Education Visitor Centre to deliver world-class educational benefits to thousands of Ethiopian citizens and international visitors and a conservation platform which will showcase the work being done to protect the country's unique wildlife heritage.

President Girma Wolde Giorgis who, as International Patron of Born Free Foundation Ethiopia, has taken a personal interest in all aspects of the project, actively supporting its development over the past three years, announced: “Wildlife conservation is a passion of mine and I am honoured and delighted to support this important project. This Centre will offer Ethiopia a unique opportunity to demonstrate to the world our efforts to protect our wonderful wildlife. It is my pleasure to have been able to assist in launching this dream.”

The President went on to express his concern for the plight of wild animals in captivity in Addis Ababa stating that, in his view, it was 'unfair to keep wildlife in such captive situations' and commending Born Free's compassionate philosophy.

Will Travers, Born Free CEO, reaffirmed the Foundation's support: “The stunning 77.5 hectare site, close to the beautiful Menagesha Forest, has been entrusted to Born Free Ethiopia by the Oromiya Regional State Bureau of Land and Environmental Protection. Once detailed design plans have been completed, construction will start later in 2010. In line with Born Free's compassionate agenda, it is our objective to help deliver an internationally recognised centre of excellence which will be good for animals, good for people and good for the environment.”

The Centre is set to become a home for wild animals rescued by the authorities from illegal trade within Ethiopia, or confiscated from poor and illegal animal facilities. The Centre will be the key rescue facility in Ethiopia enabling EWCA to better enforce new measures to reduce illegal trade in wildlife. Since Born Free Foundation established its Ethiopian office two years ago, the charity has already assisted EWCA with the rescue of two cheetah, four lions, four serval cats, a large Verreaux owl, and several giant tortoises.

Complementing the Centre's wildlife rescue activities will be educational programmes devised specifically to introduce both Ethiopian nationals and overseas visitors to the remarkable indigenous wildlife of Ethiopia and promote the importance of protecting the country's stunning natural environments and many endemic* wildlife species. Plans for the future include the construction of a veterinary clinic and environmentally responsible on-site tourist facilities, educational outreach programmes and in-situ wildlife conservation initiatives.

Dr Kifle Argaw, Director of the EWCA, joined the President in welcoming the new Wildlife Centre project. “In Ethiopia, we have an amazing diversity of wild animals that we are working hard to protect. We are challenged by habitat loss, illegal hunting and lack of resources. This Centre will be a place where everyone, from local communities to international tourists, can learn about Ethiopia's natural heritage and be inspired to work together to protect it. EWCA is delighted to partner Born Free Foundation in creating this much-needed animal rescue facility.”

Today's announcement is the result of more than three years of careful planning and negotiation. Born Free Foundation has already committed significant funds throughout the research and development phase but is seeking the support of other partners in order to ensure resources allow the project to reach its true potential.

James Young, Project Director for Born Free Foundation Ethiopia, said; “It is inspirational to work with our Ethiopian colleagues on this project. For 15 years the Born Free Foundation has supported the work of the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme** and, now, through the creation of the Wildlife Rescue, Conservation and Education Centre, we will be able to enhance the important work of the EWCA and help encourage the protection of wild animals in their natural habitat”.

Providing employment for local communities and developing business projects in partnership with local farmers and suppliers, are just two of the direct benefits the Centre will deliver to local people.

Diribu Jemal, Head of Oromiya National Regional State Land and Environmental Protection Bureau of the Regional Government of Oromiya, stated; “Wildlife conservation and wild animal rescue cannot work in isolation. Developing solutions to the problems faced by wildlife must involve people – through awareness and support – but must also deliver benefits. We are delighted to partner Born Free Foundation in developing this Centre that will provide income generation opportunities for local communities hand-in-hand with protecting Ethiopia's wildlife.”

The establishment of the Wildlife Rescue, Conservation and Education Centre offers the possibility of a more compassionate future for wild animals and a brighter tomorrow for the people of Ethiopia – a country many believe represents the new spirit of Africa.


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