Rare lion cubs saved in war-torn Somalia
Two orphan lion cubs that where taken in by Bancroft camp in Mogadishu Somalia, Saturday, March 26, 2011. (AP Photo/Edward Parsons)
Published Monday, March 28, 2011 7:06AM EDT
BERBERA, Somalia - Their mother was shot and they were driven through a raging civil war, destined to be pets in the Middle East -- until Somali authorities intervened to save two lion cubs smuggled aboard a ship in the chaotic country's port.
The two tiny cubs, a brother and sister, are believed to be rare Berbera lions because of their spotted coats. They were confiscated four weeks ago after Mogadishu's port manager reported his suspicions to Bancroft, an organization which is training African Union peacekeepers in the war-ravaged Somali capital.
It's not the first time animals have been spotted in the hands of traffickers, but it is the first time they have been confiscated, said Richard Bailey, who works in Mogadishu for Albany Associates. Trafficked animals are believed to be sent to private buyers in places like Dubai and the Far East.
Bailey's company has a contract to help the peacekeeping force with public relations.
Somalia has been mired in civil war for 20 years, and no one knows the extent of the animal trafficking trade. The two lion cubs are now being cared for by Bancroft staff, who have suitable facilities and veterinary care because they provide teams of bomb-sniffing dogs.
Mike Stock, the head of Bancroft, said "the plan is that (Somali President) Sheikh Sharif will give them to (Ugandan President) Museveni until Somalia is capable of taking them back."
He also said he had been in contact with the Smithsonian to see if the cubs could be involved in a sicentific breeding program.
Bailey said the 3-month-old cubs are eating a whole goat every three days.