The worst zoo I ever saw

zoo, Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, Lion ZooI feel sorry for my Harari friends.

During my stay in Harar, Ethiopia, they were so hospitable, so eager to ensure I had a 100% positive impression of their city and country. For the most part I did, and I left for the capital Addis Ababa with lots of great things to say about Ethiopia.

They should have warned me not to visit the Lion Zoo in Addis Ababa.

It’s billed as a natural wonder, where you can see rare Ethiopian black-maned lions descended from the pride that was kept in Haile Selassie’s palace. In reality, it’s a sad display of animal cruelty and neglect.

The lions, primates, and other animals are kept in undersized cages with bare concrete floors. They look bored, flabby, resigned. Several of them look sick. Visitors shout at the listless animals or even throw pebbles to get them to move. Some toss packets of chocolate or potato chips to the monkeys and laugh as they tear the packages apart to get to the food inside.

The worst are the lions, proud carnivores, kings of the wilderness, reduced to trapped objects of amusement for bored city dwellers who don’t give a shit about nature. The lions lie around most of the time, doing nothing. Occasionally one will get its feet, shake its dirty mane, take a few steps before realizing there’s nowhere to go, and then sit down with an air of defeat.

The whole place made me feel ill, yet I can’t feel morally superior. I come from a country where people freak out if someone beats a dog but cheer when a Third World country gets carpet bombed. Where a zoo like this would be a national scandal but people eat meat raised on factory farms that make Ethiopia’s Lion Zoo look like a nature reserve. Only vegans can talk about animal cruelty from any moral high ground, and I’m not a vegan. Meat tastes too good.

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But a travesty like this zoo is totally unnecessary. Ethiopia is anxious to promote itself as a tourist destination, a friendly, civilized country where Westerners can feel at home. Well, if it wants to do that, it better do something about the Lion Zoo.

Like shut it down.

So to my Harari friends, I’m sorry. You came close to getting a 100% positive series (well, except for my bumbling around Ethiopia’s Somali region) but it was not to be. I understand Ethiopia has bigger priorities than a few animals in a zoo in Addis Ababa, but if you want to make a positive impression on Western visitors, this place has got to go.

Don’t miss the rest of my series: Harar, Ethiopia: Two months in Africa’s city of Saints.

Coming up next: Tomoca: the best little coffeehouse in Africa!

Photo of the Day (9.21.10)

Friendly photo subject, or dangerous primate? Most animal experts would gladly tell you that a monkey bearing its teeth is trying to communicate signs of aggression, no matter just how cute the aggression may be. However, this picture was one of those frames taken at exactly the right moment. Flickr user hsemock caught this sleepy monkey at the end of a yawn and walked away (unscathed) with a great portrait.

Although it may appear that the subject is British, this chance encounter actually took place while the photographer was trekking through the jungles of Indonesia.

Do you have photos of furry friends from around the globe? Share them with us! Submit to the Gadling Flickr Pool and it could be our next Photo of the Day.

Ten monkey attack videos

Seasoned travelers know that the world is full of wonders as well as occasional hazards like political unrest, diarrhea and of course, monkey attacks. Harmless and cute as they seem to tourists, these are wild animals that are not to be taken for granted.

In 2007, SS Bajwa, Indian deputy mayor of New Delhi, was killed after falling from a terrace while fighting off an angry mob of monkeys. Typically more of a problem in South Asia (India, Thailand) where Hanuman – the Hindu “monkey god” – is particularly revered, attacks by monkeys are on the rise. Luckily, most monkey attacks are more benign, or at least less lethal.

After reviewing the following collection of kung-fu chimps, playful gibbons, and roving monkey pickpocket gangs, certain “travel tips” become self-evident. Don’t provoke them. Don’t give them knives. And don’t, under any circumstances, feed the monkeys, unless you’re attempting to exchange your Ray Bans for a piece of bread. As further warning, we’ve uncovered ten monkey attack videos featured below. Don’t let this happen to you!

1) Monkeys attack Dane
Entitled “Wheee!” Or, “Dane gratuitously provokes the monkeys until they swarm him.” Make sure to watch until :55 when Dane has to run for his life as he’s chased by a pack of crazed primates:


2) Don’t pet the monkey.
Unless you’re looking to be chased by a monkey.

3) Monkey vs. Dog
J’excuse the commentary. Truly a ninja among monkeys.

4) Baggage handlers
Searching for methods of mass destruction. If only my own baggage handlers were so kind.

5) Car-jacking
Containment is the best recourse.

6) West Side Story
Don’t give them knives. Really, don’t. Ever. Give. Them. Knives. Stupid and cruel.

7) Delinquents
When I was in India, late 70’s, I mistakenly assumed that they were being trained to steal shiny items for delivery to an “overlord.” Now I suspect that they simply evolved, learning to take and hold various items in exchange for “food.”

8) Nice hair clip
Such as this. Hmm, nice hair clip. Give Wonder Bread. I give clip.

9) Get a room
I’m not sure what he’s getting at there, beyond the obvious. She appears to be enjoying it.

10) Taekwondo
Texas. This is where it all begins, really.