The lion – especially the Lion of Judah – is a popular national motif in Ethiopia. When Haile Selassie was crowned emperor of Ethiopia, his official title was “By the Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah, His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, King of Kings of Ethiopia, Elect of God.” That’s certainly a mouthful. But it reflects the ancient connection of the people of Ethiopia with the nation of Judah. And even though a monarch hasn’t reigned over Ethiopia in more than forty years, there’s still an affinity towards the lion.
In addition to the connection with the Lion of Judah, Ethiopia has its own unique species of lion. If I understand correctly, they were once Emperor Selassie’s pet lions. They have a darker mane and smaller bodies than most African lions.
It was also recently announced that a new group of lions, once thought extinct, was rediscovered near the border with Sudan. One of the organizations that helped fund this expedition was Born Free, a wildlife organization that focuses on rescue and care of wild animals as well as conservation and education. They maintain Ensessakotteh, the Wildlife Rescue, Conservation and Education Center on the outskirts of Addis. It’s a beautiful sanctuary that we had the opportunity to visit with some missionary friends during our final day in Ethiopia. One of the things Weldu said he wanted to do before we came home with him was to see lions. So we told him we’d be sure to do that. Lions were my favorite animal when I was a kid. I even dreamed of being a lion tamer at one point in my childhood. So if my kid wanted to see lions, we were going to see lions, by golly!
The lions were neat to watch. We also saw some cheetahs and some other smaller animals. The view from the Preserve?
Since we’re on the topic of lions, there’s one more story about lions in Ethiopia that is worth mentioning. It’s almost like a reverse Daniel in the Lion’s Den. A 12 year old girl was abducted and beaten by seven men. Their goal was to force her to marry one of them. They would have been successful, except the lions stepped in. That’s right. A pride of lions protected her from her captors. They kept guard until she was found by the authorities.
Sounds like a legend from centuries ago. Right? It happened in 2005. NBC News has the details.