Shocking Images of Emaciated Lions in Sudanese Zoo Sparks Campaign to Save the Animals

January 24, 2020 Updated: April 6, 2020
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From the archives: This story was last updated in January 2020.

When Osman Salih, a self-described Sudanese “IT professional, entrepreneur, traveler, athlete and family man,” began posting pictures and videos on social media of emaciated, starving African lions held in Al-Qureshi Park in Khartoum, Sudan, they attracted major media attention worldwide.

Salih felt that the disease-ridden and malnourished condition the lions were in was morally unacceptable. He wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020:

“After seeing the fires in Australia kill so many precious creatures recently seeing these animals caged and be treated this way made my blood boil.”

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A malnourished lioness sits in her cage at the Al-Qureshi park in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Jan. 19, 2020. (©Getty Images | ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP)

“I saw the animals in such a poor state and I decided that something really needs to happen about it,” Salih explained. “I got an amazing response. Within a few hours, it went viral.” Within a mere 12 hours, Salih was sitting down with local authorities and park officials trying to come up with a solution, and locals even began bringing in food and medicine to provide treatment for the lions.

Sudan was roiled by uprisings against the authoritarian government of President Omar Al-Bashir in 2018–2019, which led to his overthrow in April 2019. Unfortunately, the difficult transition to democracy has been accompanied by massive inflation with prices skyrocketing.

This has directly affected the care of the lions. Al-Qureshi park manager Essamelddine Hajjar told AFP: “Food is not always available so often we buy it from our own money to feed them.”

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One of the five starving lions in the cages at Al-Qureshi Park in Khartoum, Sudan (©Getty Images | ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP)

Meanwhile, a lack of medical care is also a critical issue. “The issue is not simply food but most importantly the animals need detailed and special treatment to rid them of infections and issues probably brought about from infested meat and poor diet,” Salih wrote on Facebook.

Citing advice from veterinarians, Salih adds: “Treatment requires several major steps including cleaning of the cages and burning them with spirit to kill infections and parasites. Then clean the animals and give them medicine after cleaning.”

Many animal rights advocates suggested that Salih and other locals get in touch with Four Paws International, an NGO that helps animals in captivity, and Salih filed paperwork for the organization to send a rescue team to help provide better living conditions for the sick lions.

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One of the sick lionesses passed away on Monday, January 2020. (©Getty Images | ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP)

Salih discouraged group fundraising and said that anyone who wants to donate food should bring it in person. “Too often these situations are exploited and people are scammed,” he said, per People.

On Monday, Jan. 20, he wrote on Facebook:

“Lots of fresh meat was brought by several donors as well as two sheep. Supply of regular meat from factories and slaughterhouses was also secured. Managed to buy all required medical supplies for emergency care such as antibiotics, IV drip etc…”

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One of the emaciated lionesses with her ribs and backbone visible (©Getty Images | ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP)

Unfortunately, despite the influx of support in the form of food donations and medicines, one of the female lions passed away on Monday. Salih shared his grief via a Facebook post:

“I’m going to tell God everything” 😢… Rest in peace Queen.”

On Jan. 21, 2020, Salih provided a Facebook video update for English speakers following the case around the world under the name #SudanAnimalRescue. They are currently trying to come up with a funding campaign to get around sanctions in place on Sudan without breaking any laws.

“Just hang with us about the donations. Once we have a secure channel for donations, we’ll share it with you,” he says. “We’d just like to commend everybody locally and internationally for their immediate response, and we hope to save the lions at this park and other parks around Sudan that may have the same problem as this park.”