Friday, 21 June 2013

Dictators Lions

One of the stranger aspects of a dictators fall (if the fall is absolute), are what happens to their idiocentricities. Most dictators and tyrants have pets (probably because they can never trust humans - after all they usually had blood on their own hands from their rise to the top) - but no one ever says what happened to them after the dictators fall from power or were deposed. So for example what ever happened to Lenin’s cats, Hitler’s dog, Gaddafi’s camel, Caligula’s horse, or even jokingly Stalin’s spider - and of course in Africa (and also the Balkan style dictators of the Caucuses) -  the tyrants of the region usually have a Lion.

Lenin And One Of His Cats
These animal tales, invariably end in the very sad and nasty death of a perfectly innocent animal, starved to death, or forgotten, usually in some squalid zoo or compound, but not all end that way. One assumes that Stalin didn't have Lenin's cats killed, and that they found a home somewhere.

Hitler and Blondi

Hitler's dog 'Blondi' met her death at the command of her master, when he ordered that the cyanide capsules prepared for his own death, be tested on his favourite pet (partly to stop her being captured by the Soviets), and the dog died as a result. Strangely Hitler became completely inconsolable, which is somewhat strange as he ordered the trial. Equally oddly, the body of a dog (thought to be 'Blondi') was exhumed and photographed by the Soviets ...   

Caligula and Incitatus

Caligula’s horse "Incitatus" had a stable of marble, with an ivory manger, purple blankets, and a collar of precious stones. 'Dio Cassius' has indicated that the horse was attended to by servants, and was fed oats mixed with gold flake. Suetonius also wrote that it was said that Caligula planned to make Incitatus a consul, and that the horse would "invite" dignitaries to dine with him in a house outfitted with servants there to entertain such events. Now whatever the truth is about some of these assertions, its beyond doubt that the horse was spoilt rotten .....  It is known that Incitatus was a racehorse, but its believed that the horse never raced after Caligula's fall. One report suggests that it was reportedly down-graded to a stall in a regular stable without complaint, but sadly it was most likely 'executed' after the emperor's overthrow.

Kadyrov and Pet Lion

Ramzan Kadyrov, is one of eastern Europe's lesser known Russian backed dictators. He rules Chechnya in the Caucuses, and is the current winner of a violent power struggle with Chechen warlords, Sulim Yamadayev and Said-Magomed Kakiev for overall military authority, and with Alu Alkhanov for political authority. He is credited with bringing peace and stability to the region, but at the cost of having practically no human rights - however to be fair, human rights are never high up the agenda in that region.

He has the usual dictators appetites (particularly in a region where a leader can be killed almost any time), and has a live fast die young attitude, with sex scandals, a large classic car collection, antique knives etc etc - again to be fair his building program has been aimed primarily at rebuilding the country after the latest bout of fighting .... he also has a private menagerie of wild animals - in this case, the dictators favourites, lions.

Gaddafi and His Pets

In North Africa, Colonel Gaddafi had a personal animal farm where he kept over 500 ostriches, rare-breed camels, hybrid cattle, and several breeds of sheep and goats, but the whole 'farm / zoo' complex was abandoned when conflict erupted. All of these animals were left to die, many suffering a similar fate to the abandoned animals in Libya’s Tripoli Zoo who were shot, eaten, or starved to death. One of his sons, Saadi Gaddafi, personally owned nine lions in Tripoli zoo, and another son, Saif al-Islam, kept exotic animals at his farmhouse. The family abandoned all of these animals to their fates when they ran for their lives.

Saddam Hussein and Tiger Cub ... note the gloves.

Similarly Saddam Hussein would have pictures taken of himself with lions or tigers ..... I don't know if he actually kept any as pets, but I wouldn't be surprised if he did.

Emperor Haile Selassie and a Royal Lion - Not Ethiopian

In Black Africa, Idi Amin famously used to feed the crocodiles of the Nile - often with the victims of his torture prisons .... the crocodiles lived until long after he was deposed. While Emperor Haile Selassie had a zoo and lions (he was after all the Conquering 'Lion of the Tribe of Judah') - after his fall, the zoo and its animals didn't suffer the usual fates, and indeed after he founded the zoo in 1948 (with seven founding lions - five males and two females) which were said to have been captured in south-western Ethiopia, it became an ark of sorts. Because, although the geographical origin of the lions in the zoo remains controversial, these animals are now thought to be the only examples left of this kind of Lion i.e. They are genetically distinct from all other existing lions in Africa (their manes are black and go down their backs and chests) .... so oddly the dictators caging of them, actually preserved a unique sub species, after hunting killed off the wild population.

But as a rule of thumb, being a dictators pet is often a recipe for a short life, with a sad end. So next time you see a tyrant fall, spare a thought for the animals in his private menagerie, who most likely will die as well .....

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