Story at a glance

  • Photos of five lions, starving to death in a Sudan animal park, accumulated thousands of shares on social media after a Jan. 18 post.
  • The attention is coalescing into a campaign to save the lions under the hashtag #SudanAnimalRescue.
  • The lions do not have much time; one lioness died days after the initial post.

Photos of five starving African lions in a Sudanese park began circulating online on Jan. 18, prompting a campaign to save them. But the lions don’t have much time left and questions remain if the attention on social media will translate into action.

The photographs, shared on Facebook by Osman Salih, show the lions behind bars in Al-Qureshi Park, located in Khartoum. Normally symbols of dignity and power, these lions were malnourished and skeletal. Others who saw the photographs and shared Salih’s concern circulated his post until it had attracted an audience of thousands, the Washington Post reports. Many have offered donations and posted their reactions under the hashtag #SudanAnimalRescue. 

But this public attention has yet to materialize into improved living conditions for the starving lions, one of which has died since the initial post. 

“Seeing these animals caged and be treated this way made my blood boil,” Salih wrote in another post.

How the animals ended up in these dire circumstances is not immediately clear, but the park is managed by the city of Khartoum and funded partially by private donors, according to Agence France-Presse reports.

“Food is not always available, so often we buy it from our own money to feed them,” park manager Essamelddine Hajjar told AFP.

Park administrators blame Sudan’s wildlife officials for the lions’ neglect, according to Salih, adding that the park’s monthly income couldn’t feed a single lion for a week.

Globally, the lion population is declining. The past 21 years have seen their numbers slashed by 43 percent, and the species is considered “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. 

Salih is attempting to organize the outpouring of public concern for the animals’ health into effective action, but as of Monday a system for collecting donations was not yet in place. Saliha asked those wanting to give money to wait until such a system was in place to avoid fraudsters and ensure their donations reached the lions.  

The animal charity and rescue group Four Paws International said it was “aware of the situation” and would “try to find out more and see if we can help.” Salih has arranged meetings with government officials and worked to contact veterinarians and wildlife specialists.  

“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.

These tragic conditions are in part due to Sudan’s ongoing economic crisis and political upheaval. Salih says captive animals elsewhere in the country may be suffering similarly inhumane, if less visible, fates. 

“It is extremely important to note that after this post it has come to our attention that many other parks are in the same poor state,” Salih wrote. “So we hope this initiative can reach out to all wildlife parks and sanctuaries.”

Published on Jan 21, 2020