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Wildlife and Hiking Menagesha Forest at Born Free in Ethiopia

Born Free Ethiopia Menagesha

As someone who has dwelled in cities throughout my adult life, one of the great thrills of my time in Africa has been the opportunity to experience wildlife on an intimate basis. I happily awake at dawn for game drives, monkeys have stolen my dinner and I’ve looked up from more than one sundowner into the eyes of a zebra confused at my presence. But as much as I love safaris, care for animals in need is an equally, if not more, important component of interacting with wildlife. During a visit to Born Free Foundation in Ethiopia, I was able to learn about their efforts and wander the surrounding forest afterward.

Born Free is based out of the United Kingdom and is dedicated to caring and rehabilitating injured and orphaned animals. The foundation opened its Ethiopian operations in 2008 and now has a center in Menagesha Forest, about an hour west of downtown Addis Ababa. When I visited Born Free, the staff was kind enough to explain the history and rehabilitation plan for each lion, cheetah, baboon and serval cat under its care.

Many of these animals had been removed from their natural habitats and some had been kept under inhumane conditions (including a baboon found on a leash in Addis). I have seen many lions in zoos and from a safari car, but this was the closest encounter I’d had with these impressive creatures.

Born Free Ethiopia Menagesha

Born Free Ethiopia Menagesha

The cheetahs at Born Free were remarkably friendly and brushed up against their fence with house cat-like coquettishness. I caught a quick glimpse of a serval cat in its enclosure, but it did not stay visible long enough for a photo.

Born Free Ethiopia Menagesha

Cheetah in Ethiopia at Born Free.

The baboons, however, were happy to pose.

Born Free Ethiopia Menagesha

After visiting with the animals, it was time for a hike. In the middle of the dry season, Menagesha Forest is just the right temperature for a lengthy wander, with heavy canopy cover and the occasional smell of eucalyptus trees hitting you randomly.

Born Free Ethiopia Menagesha

Born Free Ethiopia Menagesha

Born Free Ethiopia Menagesha

In addition to the trees and shrubbery, a disused concrete building forms part of the forest now. The steps are still scalable (but I did so with much caution) and lead to some impressive views of the woods. The exterior has been removed, so little remains except for the foundation, floors and some graffiti in Amharic. Nearby, another remnant of Ethiopia’s recent past.

Born Free Ethiopia Menagesha

Born Free Ethiopia Menagesha

Born Free Ethiopia Menagesha

Born Free Ethiopia - Abandoned Building

An afternoon of Born Free and hiking is an ideal day trip from Addis Ababa and organizations that undertake such admirable work deserve the support of travelers. I urge you to visit Born Free if you are spending any time in Ethiopia to see first-hand how meaningful their efforts are.

I’m publishing this post today to coincide with the International Day of Forests. The preservation of these spaces is vital to mitigating carbon emissions and combating climate change.

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Rachael@safari254 March 24, 2015, 9:50 am

    I only just recently watched the movie Born Free so from your post it is nice to see how a single lioness led to a conservation movement
    Rachael@safari254 recently posted…Amboseli – Amazing, Magical, Memorable and moreMy Profile

  • Corinne March 24, 2015, 10:35 am

    Dave, I would love to go here. Born Free is one of my favorite movies and songs!

  • Aunt Sue April 2, 2015, 4:15 am

    I can’t imagine being that close to those amazing animals! What a gift! The cheetah rubbing it’s face on the fence reminds me of my housecats, the same mannerisms…

    • Dave April 13, 2015, 10:11 am

      Yes, evolution seems to have changed some aspects of felines, but the coquettishness remains!

  • Marjie April 18, 2015, 11:34 am

    I’ve never been to any part of Africa and have been wondering if that’s a mistake. Your photos and description are really making me wonder if I’ve been wrong not to do so all these years.
    Marjie recently posted…21 Delicious Camping RecipesMy Profile

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