“I’ve never seen lions like this before. I work over 30 years with animals in conflict and war zones, but this is the first time I saw skeleton lions, still just breathing,” says veterinarian Amir Khalil from the animal welfare organization Four Paws.
Monday, he arrived with his team at the Al-Qarashi Family Park, the name of the zoo in Khartoum, to offer medical care to the emaciated lions. Two lions, a male and a female, are in very critical condition.
The male lion, Mansour, is very emaciated and limping. The lioness, Kandaka, is in even worse condition. She is dehydrated, malnourished, has almost no muscles and weighs only a third of the normal body weight for a lion.
The government of Sudan owns the animals, but an entrepreneur is renting the zoo. It was unclear who should feed the lions, the government or entrepreneur. “This was the reason the animals don’t get proper feeding, don’t get food,” Khalil says.
It wasn’t until a local animal rights advocate, Osman Salih, posted pictures of the extremely skinny lions, that people started caring for them. Sadly since then, two passed away from starvation. Amir’s team came just in time to hopefully save the other lions.
The team was shocked by the overall conditions of the zoo. The animals are stuck in very small places. They also examined all the other animals in the zoo: two physically healthier lions, two hyenas, snakes and turtles. About the hyenas, Khalil says: “It’s a tiny place. I think they feel depressed.”
Khalil and his team will stay there until the two lions are healthy again. In between he will have to fly to Vienna, where Four Paws is based, to get more medication for the animals.
He hopes, when the animals are better, to find a long-term solution for all the animals at the zoo.
Listen to veterinarian Amir Kahlil about the situation in Sudan.
Pictures of the rescue mission and the animals at the zoo, made by Four Paws.