Free once more

Whenever possible, Born Free aims to reintroduce the wildlife they have rescued back to the wild. But it is not a simple process and takes a lot of time, expertise and patience. We hear of some of their success stories this year…

HR-jackalsIn Ethiopia, close to the bustling capital city Addis Ababa, international wildlife charity the Born Free Foundation has created an amazing wildlife rescue centre. Known as Ensessakotteh, which means ‘animal footprint’ in the local language Amharic, the centre is home to a wide range of animals rescued from tiny cages and the illegal wildlife trade – from lions and cheetahs, to monkeys and even giant tortoises. Although some animals will rely on Born Free’s care for their entire lives, whenever feasible individuals are returned to the wild. This year Born Free has set free vervet monkeys, servals, caracals, jackals, a duiker and even a little black-winged lovebird rescued from a shoddy hotel ‘zoo’.

Rehabilitation is not as simple as just opening a cage door, letting the animals out, and hoping for the best. Born Free makes sure the animals released stand the best chance possible. They have to be fit enough and learn how to find or hunt for food. They also have to be old enough. Born Free won’t consider releasing the animals until the age they would naturally leave their mothers. Social animals are released in natural groups and the environment they are released into must be natural habitat and as safe as possible.

Freedom fighters
To follow their progress, two of the rehabilitated caracals and the two servals were radio-collared. Born Free had rescued them as young kittens when their mothers were killed and they were going to be sold as pets. At first the caracals – beautiful, lynx-like, red-brown wild cats – stayed close to the centre, but then became more adventurous and moved out of range. Meanwhile, the two servals – another species of wild cat, with spotted fur and long legs – are still being tracked and remain close by. Born Free has seen the female, Shalla, hunting mice and believe she may now be pregnant.

The nervous jackals, rescued from a squalid zoo, have calmed down amazingly since they were set free. They confidently trot around the centre in broad daylight and come back most days for food. Technically, this is a ‘soft release’; supplemental food is provided should the released animals want it, easing their transition back into the wild. Perhaps the most exciting release was the lovebird. Lovebirds naturally live in flocks which seasonally pass through the centre. One morning ‘Little Green’ began to chirp and chirp – the wild lovebirds were flying through. The door to her cage was opened and she flew out, doubled-back and landed on the top of it. Still she chirped, and the wild lovebirds chirped back. Little Green then flew onto the surrounding fence and then she was gone. It was beautiful to see her fly off with the flock, back where she belonged.

Find out more about some of the animals freed by BFF
The caracal often prefers a drier habitat and is found throughout Africa, as well as parts of Asia and Arabia. Like the serval, caracals are strong but slim – weighing about 14kg and standing 70cm high. The caracal is the most powerful of all cats – relative to body size. A caracal’s diet includes birds, hare and rock hyrax. The word ‘caracal’ comes from the Turkish words ‘kara kulak’, which means ‘black ear’.

Servals live south of the Sahara desert in Africa’s grasslands, usually near water.  They resemble small cheetah, weigh 13kg and are about 50cm tall. Servals have long necks and run very fast, thanks to their long legs – the longest of all cats relative to their body size.  They eat rats and mice and have big ears to listen out for prey. They leap up to 3.5m high to pounce on them.

Black-winged lovebirds used to be found for sale on the side of roads in Ethiopia, but the authorities clamped down a few years back and the trade is much diminished. This is probably why ‘Little Green’ was the first lovebird Born Free has been asked to rescue. Male and female black-winged lovebirds have different facial markings, so Born Free knows ‘Little Green’ was female.

Please help KQ and the Born Free Foundation to safeguard Africa’s wildlife by placing any loose or unwanted change in the envelopes provided and handing to a member of the cabin crew. The money received will make a huge difference and help us in our fight to ensure a future for Africa’s iconic wildlife. Thank you!