Sudanese people mobilize to save starving lions in a Khartoum zoo

Our Observer Osman Salih took this photo of the starving lions in the Khartoum zoo.
Our Observer Osman Salih took this photo of the starving lions in the Khartoum zoo.

After our Observer posted photos of the starving, skeletal lions being kept at a park in Khartoum on January 18, social media was swamped with calls for the authorities to act.

People reacted with shock and horror after Osman Salih, a computer engineer who lives and works in Khartoum, posted photos of five starving lions – four females and a male – being kept at a local park along with the hashtag #Sudananimalrescue.

"Detaining wild animals, providing them with no care or food..Mr @SudanPMHamdok, please act urgently on behalf of the captive lions in Khartoum’s Al-Qureshi Park. They have been reduced to a shadow of their former selves. #SudanAnimalRescue"

On January 20, Salih announced that one of the female lions, who was sick and starving, had died on January 20.

From the first moment that I saw her, I knew that she was in very bad health. She was brought to a clinic on Monday morning but they weren’t able to save her, she was too sick.

The other females are doing better now that they have been taking medication. The male is okay. He was starving as well, but he wasn’t as sick as the females.

These are the photos that were posted on Facebook and Twitter on January 18 that prompted the authorities to act:

On Saturday afternoon, I brought my son to the park for the first time and I was really surprised to see that there were animals there. When I saw the lions in a corner of this little zoo, I was extremely shocked. Their cages were filthy and stank. They didn’t have any food. Even the water was dirty. The lions had been reduced to skeletons; they could barely move.

I asked one of the keepers why the animals hadn’t been fed, and he said that they didn’t have any money to buy them food and, even if they did, they no longer had a vehicle to transport it.

When I said that I wanted to help, that I had time and money, he told me that it wasn’t as simple as that and that I’d need the proper authorizations.

I was really angry so I immediately posted the photos that I had taken of the lions to social media. By the end of the day, they had gone viral.

The next morning, I was able to meet with both park officials and government officials in charge of animal protection. I told them about the huge response that I had gotten on social media and just how many people were ready to help. In fact, about a hundred people came to the zoo the day that I posted the photos.

Soon after I posted the photos, a veterinary team came to take care of the lions and they made a list of the medicine that they needed to start taking urgently. We were able to get food organized for them through donations from volunteers and the help of several slaughterhouses.

Because of inflation, people in Sudan can barely buy food for themselves, let alone meat [Editor’s note: Inflation is at 60% according to the last official figures].

Salih now goes to the zoo every day to check on the lions. He says that he hopes the movement to support these lions will lead to concrete measures to protect wild animals in Sudan:

We need help from experts. I’m currently in contact with several foreign NGOs who specialize in this kind of emergency situation. I hope that this campaign will raise enough money and support to create a public zoo in Sudan with the proper means to care for these animals.

"People need to take back control of animal protection services”

Khalid Osman Hiwytalla is the directer of the Sudan Wildlife Research Center. He says that there isn’t an adequate system for protecting wild animals in Sudan:


The problem is that animal protection falls under the responsibility of the police and the Ministry of the Interior and it just isn’t a priority for them.

There used to be a large public zoo in Khartoum – it was one of the biggest in Africa. However, it was closed and a luxury hotel was built in its place. People need to take back control of animal protection services.

Article by Pierre Hamdi (@PierreHamdi)