Abducted on her way home form school, and beaten by a group of seven predators, a twelve-year old Ethiopian girl was saved by a pride of lions, who scared her protectors away and protected her until police arrived on the scene and took her home. For more details, see below.
Abducting Children And Forcing Them Into Marriage Is Commonplace In Ethiopia
Sadly, in Ethiopia today, kidnapping young girls for marriage happens almost every day. According to a United Nations estimate, more than 70% of Ethiopian marriages are the result of bridal abductions! This barbaric practice occurs particularly in rural areas where the majority of the nation's 71 million people live. Snatched by seven men in broad daylight, this child was destined to forcibly marry a member of their community. (See: Giant Rats Save Lives.)
Black-Maned Lions Came To The Rescue
According to Stuart Williams, a wildlife expert with the rural development ministry, Ethiopia's lions are famous for their majestic black manes. They are the country's national symbol and their images are imprinted on local currency. Despite a recent crackdown by authorities, it is estimated that due to illegal poaching, only 1,000 Ethiopian lions remain in the wild. On this June afternoon several years ago, three lions saw seven men beating a helpless girl and they charged the predators, scaring them away. A week later, the girl was found in the jungle surrounded by a protective ring of three lions. (See: Heroic Dog Saves African Wedding Party.)
The lions retreated somewhat after the police arrived on the scene in the provincial capital of Bita Genet, about 350 miles southwest of Addis Ababa. They did not retrun to the jungle, however, until everyone left. The girl later testified that the lions stood guard over her until the police came. According to police sergeant, Wondimu Wedajo, seven men abducted her and beat her repeatedly until the lions intervened and protected her for at least 12 hours before help arrived. In his own words: "They stood guard until we found her and then just left her, like a gift, and went back into the forest. If the lions had not come to her rescue, it could have been much worse. Often, these young girls are raped and severely beaten to force them to accept marriage."
Why Did The Lions Rescue This Child?
According to Sergeant Wondimu, "Everyone thinks this is some kind of miracle because normally the lions would attack people." Stuart Williams, however has yet another theory. He believes that the girl may have survived because she was crying from the pain of her multiple beatings, and perhaps to the lions, "her whimpering might have been mistaken for the mewing of a lion cub, which could explain why they didn't eat her." (See: Dolphins Save Drowning Girl.)
Game hunter, Colonel Lemma Legesse, stated: "They were probably preparing to eat her, but were intercepted by the police and others." Still, it seems logical that one could argue that even though lions certainly do attack humans, if they were going to, wouldn't they have done so immediately instead of offering her a ring of protection for more than half a day? (See: The Gorilla Who Saved A Little Boy.)
All's Well That Ends Well
The girl, who is the youngest of four siblings, was traumatized and treated for the many cuts and bruises she sustained in the beatings she received from these brutal men. Four of the abductors were later captured, but the others remain free and the neanderthal attitude and custom of forced marriage continues to be a constant threat to the health and welfare of Ethiopian children to this day. (See: The Elephant Who Stopped For A Child.)
The mystique and enduring enigma of the African lion grows more elusive with each passing day. Who can know why a wild animal does what it does, especially when it comes to something that goes against its feral instinct?
For one grateful little girl in Ethiopia, it doesn't matter why.