U.S. troops flew to the Ethiopian capital Tuesday with two cheetah cubs rescued from a remote village where they had been forced to fight for the entertainment of restaurant patrons. The cubs, who the soldiers named Scout and Patch, were released on the grounds of the Ethiopian president's official residence after their 1,100-kilometer (680-mile) journey from the eastern village of Gode.
The U.S. counterterrorism soldiers were in the Gode region last month carrying out humanitarian work when they came across the cheetahs, one of them apparently blind, at a restaurant. The soldiers alerted the government, drawing international attention to the plight of the cubs. The cheetah is an endangered species.
A government veterinarian confiscated the three-month old cheetahs Sunday from the restaurant owner and gave them to U.S. troops for safekeeping until their flight.
The soldiers were part of a Djibouti-based task force that provides intelligence-gathering help to countries in the region, tries to bolster cooperation and border protection, and mounts humanitarian projects _ digging wells, building bridges, helping construct schools _ aimed at improving the U.S. military's image among Muslims. Keeping wild animals is illegal without a special license, but Ethiopia's wildlife laws are rarely enforced. The cheetah is endangered worldwide because of loss of habitat, poaching and other factors, according to the Ohio-based Cheetah Conservation Fund, reports the AP. N.U.