From: Anthony Mitchell, Associated Press
Published November 28, 2005 12:00 AM

Ethiopian Government Sends Vet To Care for Cheetah Cubs Rescued by U.S. Soldiers

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — The government sent a veterinarian to eastern Ethiopia Saturday to help U.S. soldiers rescue two endangered cheetah cubs held captive and abused at a remote village restaurant, an environmental official said.


The vet, Fekadu Shiferaw, would take the 3-month-old cheetahs away from the restaurant in the village of Gode and give them to U.S. troops for safekeeping until they can be flown to Addis Ababa, Befekadu Refera, an official of Ethiopia's Environmental Protection Agency, told The Associated Press.


"The vet will give some medical treatment to the animals and then on Monday or Tuesday they will flown to Addis Ababa courtesy of the U.S army," Befekadu said, adding that "the U.S army will not take the cheetahs without Ethiopian officials being present."


The soldiers, part of the U.S. counterterrorism task force for the Horn of Africa, were in the region carrying out humanitarian work when they came across the cheetahs, which were being forced to fight each other for the amusement of children at the restaurant and hotel run by Mohamed Hudle.


The Djibouti-based task force provides intelligence-gathering help to countries in the region, tries to bolster cooperation and border protection, and mounts humanitarian projects aimed at improving the U.S. military's image among Muslims.


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U.S. military officials refused to discuss the animal rights turn their hearts and minds campaign took in Gode.


Befekadu confirmed Thursday that the U.S. military had contacted his agency about the cubs -- one of which is blind -- and even offered to fly the pair to Addis Ababa, 1,100 kilometers (684 miles) west of Gode, for care.


The cheetah is endangered because of loss of habitat, poaching and other factors, according to the international Cheetah Conservation Fund.


The restaurant owner, Mohamed, 43, said he bought the cubs from poachers and does not know what happened to their mother. The poachers had kicked the female cub in the face, blinding the animal, he said.


Keeping wild animals is illegal without a special license, but Ethiopia's wildlife laws are rarely enforced. Mohamed also has a hawk with a broken wing and three scrawny baby ostriches.


"Unless these cubs are properly looked after and cared for they will soon die," said Befekadu.


Once brought to the capital, Befekadu said, they will be cared for on the large grounds of the National Palace, home to several Abyssinian lions rescued by former Emperor Haile Selassie.


Source: Associated Press


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