A 12-year-old Ethiopian girl who was kidnapped by a group of men allegedly forcing her into marriage was saved by three lions, according to a police officer who witnessed the scene.
The girl, who had been missing for a week, had been abducted by seven men, one of whom attempted to force her into marrying him. Fortunately, three lions came to the young girl’s rescue and purportedly scared off her captors, before the police found her being guarded by the pride.
The girl had been crying because she was beaten repeatedly by the men to force her into marriage. It is believed the sounds of her cries attracted the lions’ attention. The police and her relatives found her in Kefa Zone in southwestern Ethiopia, where the lions stayed with her for about half a day, according to Sgt. Wondimu Wedajo.
“They stood guard until we found her and then they just left her like a gift and went back into the forest,” Wondimu told The Associated Press by telephone from the provincial capital of Bita Genet, southwest of Addis Ababa.
“If the lions had not come to her rescue, then it could have been much worse. Often these young girls are raped and severely beaten to force them to accept the marriage.”
A local government official, Tilahun Kassa, verified the story Wondimu told the AP. He confirmed that one of the abductors had planned to force the girl to marry him despite her unwillingness.
Williams said the girl was most likely rescued by the lions because she was crying from being beaten up so severely.
“A young girl whimpering could be mistaken for the mewing sound from a lion cub, which in turn could explain why they didn’t eat her,” he said.
Ethiopian lions are famous for their large, black manes, and are Ethiopia’s national symbol. However, hunters kill these endangered animals for their skins. Wildlife expert Stuart Williams estimates that only about 1,000 Ethiopian lions remain in the wild.
Wondimu said the girl was “shocked and terrified” by the abduction and beatings. She was treated for her injuries in the hospital, and advised the police that the lions did not do her any harm.
“Everyone thinks this is some kind of miracle, because normally the lions would attack people,” Wondimu said.