LIONS (PANTHERA LEO) IN Ethiopia

Principle Threats

The report of the National Lion Conservation Workshop (Gebresenbet et al. 2009) stated that Awash National Park was being overtaken by human settlements, and warned that the same fate may befall all other parks in Ethiopia.  Further, the report indicated that lions had been eliminated from historical presence in Alledeghi WR and had started eating livestock and humans in Awash NP.

The workshop suggested the following as a list of threats to lions within Ethiopia:
1.             Population pressure
2.             Low political priority / interest
3.             Habitat loss (lion incompatible development)
4.             Lack of capacity
5.             Lack of prey
6.             Poor livestock husbandry
7.             Poor management strategies
8.             Conflicts (human-wildlife)
9.             Weak law enforcement
10.          Lack of awareness
11.          Untapped ecotourism potential
12.          Cultural and traditional factors
13.          Drought
14.          Poor land management around protected areas
15.          Lack of data / monitoring
16.          Trade in lion parts
17.          Poverty
18.          Breakdown of social community structure
19.          Invasive plant species
20.          Bush encroachment
21.          Climate change

Gebresenbet F, Bauer H, Hunter L, Gebretensae K (2009).  Paper presented at the National Lion Conservation Workshop, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (pdf)

Trade in Lions

Trophy hunting of lions is currently restricted to problem animal control.

Number of wild source lions estimated in international trade, 1999-2008:             16
Average annual wild source trade as percent of population size*:                           <1%
* Used average of Chardonnet (2002) and Bauer & van der Merwe (2004) studies

Between 1999 and 2008, 399 lion specimens were exported from Ethiopia. Most were specimens for scientific purposes. However, exports included 14 trophies for hunting trophy purposes, and two skins for personal purposes, all from wild source lions that originated in Ethiopia. This represents at least 16 wild lions which is two percent of the population.   Annualized, these exports represent less than one percent of the population. The U.S. was the major importer of lion trophies from Ethiopia

Place J, Flocken J, Travers W, Waterland S, Telecky T, Kennedy C, Goyenechea A (2011) Petition to list the African Lion (Panthera leo leo) as endangered pursuant to the US Endangered Species Act.  The International Fund for Animal Welfare, The Born Free Foundation, The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International, Defenders of Wildlife (pdf)

Lions in Culture

The Lion of Judah/Abyssinian lion was once a prominent feature in Ethiopia found upon the nations flag, stamps and currency during the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie I (1930-1974) as a symbol of liberation [1].

Each Ethiopian Emperor was inadvertently given the title ‘Mo`a Anbesa Ze'imnegede Yihuda’ translated from Ge’ez to English as ‘Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah’ [1].  Ge’ez being an ancient Semitic language from northern Ethiopia [2] and was once the official language of the Ethiopian Imperial Court.

Yet it is believed the lion’s symbolic importance linking to the Imperial House of Ethiopia dates back to the Tribe of Judah under King Solomon’s reign in Israel 971 B.C.  Many of the Emperor’s followers believed Emperor Haile Selassie I was a direct descendant of Menelik I, the only child borne to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.  Menelik I was believed to have been the founder of the Solomonic Reign of Ethiopia; a Dynasty that reigned uninterrupted for nearly 3000 years until the fall of Emperor Haile Selassie [3].

Since the end of Haile Selassie’s reign the Rastafarian movement, rising from Christianity in Jamaica in the 1930’s, has continued to use the Lion of Judah as an important symbol.  Many Rastafarians worship the deceased Emperor Haile Selassie regarding him as a reincarnation of Jesus [1].

The report of the National Lion Conservation Workshop [5] stated that “Livestock conflict used to be rare and even when it happened it was taken as a “good luck” sign by owners.  Recently however, livestock killing by lions has increased mainly as other wild prey is disappearing.  Man eating is endemic.  In 2008, in a certain locality lions ate 20 people.  This incident led to the destruction of eight lions.

 

The Lion of Judah Monument, a bronze statue of the Lion of Judah, symbolizing the Imperial dynasty, on a black granite pedestal in the forecourt of the railway station at one end of Churchill Road; the Municipality, Addis Ababa City Hall, is at the other end. It was erected in 1930 just before Emperor Haile Selassie's coronation, looted by the Italians in 1935 and only returned in 1960

Photo by Ludo Kuipers, Mon Feb 12, 1973 (source html)

An inscribed narrative cycle in Amharic, a Semitic Ethiopian language, of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba [4]

The Lion's Whiskers - an Ethiopian Folktale (source html)

Bizunesh, a woman of the Ethiopian highlands, married Gudina, a man of the lowlands. Gudina's first wife had died of a fever, and he had an eight-year old son whose name was Segab. When Bizunesh went to the house of Gudina, she quickly saw that Segab was a very sad boy because he missed his mother so much.

In only a short time Bizunesh grew to love Segab as if he were her own son, and she tried to be a good mother. She mended all of Segab's clothes and bought him new shoes. She asked him what foods he liked best, and she always saved the choicest pieces of meat from the wat for Segab. But Segab did not thank her. He would not even look at her or talk to her.

The Imperial Flag of Ethiopia, used until September 1974, which has at its centre a gold lion marching east carrying a cross and wearing the Imperial Ethiopian crown.  This is the lion of Judah symbol, also the symbol of the Emperor of Ethiopia [6].

Bizunesh and Segab were often alone together because Gudina was a merchant who travelled with mule caravans to distant places. Bizunesh worried that Segab would be lonely and tried especially hard to please him when his father was away. "I have always wanted a son," Bizunesh told Segab. "Now God has given me one.  I love you very much."  Often she tried to kiss him. But always Segab would turn away from her, and once he shouted, "You are not my mother. I do not love you."

One day Segab ran away from the house and hid in the town market until his father came and found him. When Segab returned home, Bizunesh tried to take him in her arms, but he pulled away from her. He would not touch the bowl of delicious soup she had saved for him. Bizunesh cried all that night.

In the morning Bizunesh went to the hut of a famous wise man.  She told the wise man about her new stepson who refused to love her, no matter how hard she tried to please him.

"You must make me a magic love powder" Bizunesh told the old man. "I will put it in Segab's food, and then he will love me."

The wise man was silent for several minutes. "I can do what you ask" he said at last. "But to make such a powder, I must have three whiskers from the ferocious lion who lives in the black-rock desert across the river. Bring the whiskers to me, and I will make the powder for you."

The Imperial Standard features, on its reverse, a version of the Imperial Flag [6].

Bizunesh could hardly believe her ears. "How can I get the lion's whiskers?" she asked. "He will surely kill me."

"I cannot tell you how to get the whiskers" the wise man said to Bizunesh. "That is for you to decide. But I must have them before I can make the love powder."

Bizunesh walked sadly from the wise man's hut. She did not sleep a wink that night, but in the morning her mind was made up. Nothing was as important to her as winning Segab's love.  She had to try to get three whiskers from the lion even if he ate her. Only then would the wise man make the magic love powder for her.

That very day Bizunesh carried a large piece of raw meat to the black-rock desert.  At last she saw the lion standing on a large rock, watching her from a great distance. When the lion jumped from the rock and loped toward her, Bizunesh was terrified.  She threw the meat on the ground and ran.  Only when she reached the river did she stop and look back. She saw the lion standing over the meat she had dropped.  She heard him roar before he began to eat.

Following the Ethiopian Revolution of 1974 the Provisional Military Administrative Council removed the crown from the head of the Lion of Judah and replaces the cross with a spear.  The new emblem became known as the “Lion of Ethiopia” The lion was removed soon after following the abolition of the Monarchy by proclamation [6].

Two days later Bizunesh went again to the black-rock desert with a big piece of meat.  She saw the lion watching her from the same rock. This time she walked closer to him before the lion jumped down and started toward her.  Bizunesh stood still for a moment and watched the lion approach. Then her fear overcame her, and she threw the meat down and ran.  When she looked back, she saw the lion eating.

On the following day Bizunesh walked even closer to the lion.  This time she placed the meat on the ground and walked slowly away.  Before she had gone far she stopped and watched as the lion came and ate the meat.

Day after day Bizunesh came closer.  Finally, she left the meat only a hundred feet from the lion.  The great beast growled, but Bizunesh did not think it sounded like an angry growl.  She moved only a few steps away before she stopped and watched the lion eat.  The next day Bizunesh left the meat fifty feet from the lion and stayed while he came and ate.

Then a few days later Bizunesh walked right up to the lion and handed him the meat.  Her heart pounded with fear, but her love for Segab was so great that she did not run.

She watched the lion's great jaws fly open!  Crash shut!  She heard the sound of his teeth tearing through the meat.  After a moment she reached out with a very sharp knife and cut three whiskers from the lion's muzzle.  The lion was so busy eating that he didn't even notice.

Bizunesh ran all the way to the wise man's hut.  She was out of breath, but she was still able to shout, "I have the lion's whiskers!" She waved them in front of the old wise man. "Now make me the love powder, and Segab will surely love me."

The wise man took the lion's whiskers.  He looked at them and then handed back to Bizunesh. "You do not need a love powder" he told her, "You have learned how to approach the lion - slowly. Do the same with Segab, and he will learn to love you."

References

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lion_of_Judah
[2] http://www.omniglot.com/writing/ethiopic.htm
[3] http://www.hyperhistory.net/apwh/essays/cot/t1w12ethiopia.htm
[4] D. Jackson, 2010. ‘Lion’, Animal Series. Reaction Books Ltd, London (book – purchase required)
[5] Gebresenbet F, Bauer H, Hunter L, Gebretensae K (2009).Paper presented at the National Lion Conservation Workshop, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (pdf)
[6]  http://www.angelfire.com/ny/ethiocrown/flags.html

Governing Body

Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority
A department of the Ministry of Culture & Tourism
P.O. Box 386
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Email: e.w.c.o@ethionet.et
http://www.ewca.gov.et/ewca

Mission

“To scientifically conserve and manage Ethiopian wildlife and its habitats in collaboration with communities and stakeholders for the ecological, economical and social benefits of the present generation, and pass to the next generation as a heritage.

The Forest and Wildlife Authority [was] established on September 5, 1980...The duty and responsibility of the Forest and Wildlife Authority transferred to [the] Ministry of Natural Resources Development and Environmental protection on January 20,1993 by proclamation number 41/1993.

Following this, proclamation No 94/1994 repealed the articles with the provision of forestry part and allows wildlife conservation alone to continue as an authority. The right and obligation of the Ministry of Natural Resource Development and Environmental Protection Transferred to Ministry of Agriculture by proclamation No 4/1995. Proclamation 120/1998 transferred duty and responsibility of Wildlife Conservation Authority to Biodiversity Conservation and Research Institute. Proclamation No 120/1998 amended by proclamation 167/1999 and this gave the Wildlife Conservation Organization to continue its functions as an authority again.  Proclamation 380/2003 transferred all its duty and responsibility to Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Eventually the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA) is established pursuant to proclamation No. 581/2007. Since its inception EWCA has been dedicated on the active participation of the common unity surrounding the park and other protected areas for wildlife conservation.

Accordingly to the regulation, EWCA administer the Following 10 national parks and 2 sanctuaries. these are the Simien Maountains National Park,Bale aountains National Park, Awash National Park, Nech Sar ational Park, Gambella National Park, Alatish National Park, Kafta Shiraro National Park, Geralle National Park, Omo National Park, Abjata Shala National Park, Senkele Swayne's Hartbeest Sanctuary and Babille Elaphants Sanctuary… “

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