By Al-Nur al-Zaki
Khartoum, Jun 27 (EFE).- Two years ago, photos of some starving lions at a rundown zoo in the Sudanese capital went viral, spurring a worldwide campaign to save the animals.
Today, they are flourishing in a reserve where other lions from neighboring countries are expected to join them.
Kandaka the lioness and four others were at al-Qurashi Park zoo in central Khartoum where they were kept in rusty cages, severely malnourished to the point that they became emaciated. Only three of the five lions managed to survive those horrid conditions.
“One by one, we transported them” from the al-Qurashi Park to the reserve after getting official approval, Osman Saleh, the president of the al-Bageir reserve, tells Efe in an interview.
The reserve, which opened its doors in January 2021, shelters Kandaka, Mansour and 18 other lions, thanks to online international efforts that began in 2020 led by veterinarians and wildlife enthusiasts from all over the world.
The al-Bageir reserve, located 30 kilometers south of Khartoum, extends over four hectares of farm land owned by Saleh’s family.
“We have tickets for entry. They help cover some of our running costs but because of the big number of animals we have here, mostly meat-eaters, it is a really big cost so we still have to spend from our own money and savings,” Saleh highlights.
Several people have volunteered to help at the reserve, according to Saleh.
Every week, volunteer vets come for routine checkups on the animals, and vets from the Four Paws NGO also come to perform surgeries and train the local staff every six months, Saleh explains.
After the photos spread online, the Four Paws NGO came to the rescue of the lions in 2020 after a team, led by veterinarian Amir Khalil, received permission from the Sudanese authorities to provide the animals with much-needed food and medical attention.
The reserve now houses 20 lions between the ages of six months and six years in six iron cages. They need 100 kilograms of meat a day, Saleh says.
The most famous in the park is Mansour (Arabic for “victorious”), who is named so because he overcame adversity at the Khartoum zoo before being transferred to the reserve, Saleh adds.
Close to him and surrounded by her cubs is Kandaka, named after an ancient Nubian queen.
In addition to lions, the reserve is also home to hyenas, turtles, monkeys, ostriches and gazelles, which can be seen frolicking in their spacious cages.
Saleh points out that the reserve does not currently have financial problems, but it does need more help to bring in elephants, giraffes, rhinos, tigers and other animals from other countries on the continent.
African lions are now officially classified as “vulnerable” species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as only an estimated 23,000-39,000 mature individuals remain in the wild and three quarters of the population are in decline.EFE