Over 200 animals, including 25 lions and six hyenas, are in danger at a wildlife sanctuary in Sudan. Founder Osman Salih and his team risk their lives to care for the animals at Sudan Animal Rescue in Al Bageir, close to the capital Khartoum, which has been under heavy fighting since April 15.
Amid the conflict, essential services have collapsed, and food is in critically short supply. Salih said in a video interview with news agency Reuters on Sunday that they’re struggling on one side to feed their family, “and at the same time, we can’t give up on the responsibility towards the animals that we’ve worked so hard to rescue and take care of.”
The team travels 15 km (9 miles) to the sanctuary on the outskirts of Khartoum, facing dangerous conditions to ensure the animals’ well-being.
“We have no supplies, no fuel, no electricity, no water. So we’re really risking our lives every day to try to reach there, if not every day, every other day, to reach the sanctuary and provide as much as we can from the stored meat and stored water for the animals,” Salih said.
Bombshells have hit the sanctuary, including the lion enclosure. The lack of electricity has caused the sanctuary’s electric security system to malfunction, increasing the risk of scared and anxious animals attempting to break loose. Widespread looting further intensifies Salih’s concerns.
“There is a lot of looting. There’s a lot of hijacking of the cars. We’ve already had one of our pickups stolen. And even yesterday, one of our team members on the way was brought down from the car, and they tried to steal his car as well. So it’s a real risk. You know, it’s life and death here for, you know, for survival.”
Salih doesn’t want to euthanize the animals: “Many people are telling us to relieve these animals and, you know, euthanize them or, you know, put them to sleep if we’re not able to provide for them anymore. And that’s a very difficult choice, you know, we don’t, we don’t want to do that.”
He added that he’s also worried about the many pets that people fleeing the country are leaving behind: “We get so many messages about people leaving their pets at home and wanting us to help them, you know, evacuate their pets.”
“So most of the people that evacuate, that’s whether they’re locals or expats, they all left their pets at home. Very few have been able to leave the city or leave the country with their pets. So there’s a huge number of pets that are locked inside houses that are without food and water,” Salih said.