The new life of the famished lions of the Khartoum zoo

Khartoum, June 27. Two years ago, photos of starving lions at the Khartoum Zoo in Sudan went around the world, sparking a wave of solidarity for their rescue. Now, these felines live in a reserve where they enjoy a new life and where they await more companions from other neighboring countries.

The lioness Kandaka and four other lions were in the Al Qurashi zoo, in the center of Khartoum, when the scandal broke: the cats were completely starved, with their ribs fully visible and in rusty cages. Only three of the five lions survived.

To save the rest, Ozman Saleh appeared: “I started moving the three lions from the Al Qurashi park after obtaining the approval of the authorities to transfer other lions that were suffering in parks in Khartoum and other states,” he told Efe in an interview on who is now president of the Al Baqeir reserve.

In this reserve, which opened its doors in January 2021, there are Kandaka, Mansour and 18 other felines that are already enjoying a new life thanks to a campaign started in 2020 online by veterinarians and wildlife lovers from all over the world. .

THE NEW FELINE LIFE

The Al Baqeir reserve, located 30 kilometers south of the Sudanese capital, near the shore of the Blue Nile, extends over some four hectares on agricultural land owned by Saleh’s family.

Nothing to do with the situation in which these felines and other animals lived in the zoo in the center of Khartoum, the capital of the country that lived as living conditions worsened due to the serious economic crisis that worsened with the protests in 2019 that ended with the overthrow of former dictator Omar al Bashir.

“Al Baqeir Reserve depended on the efforts of donors, but after the reserve opened to the public in January 2021, the income from the entrance tickets allowed us to obtain enough resources to buy food for lions and other animals, since that more than a thousand people visit the reserve weekly,” said its manager.

Saleh has several volunteers who help maintain the reserve, explaining that “volunteer vets come every week to do routine checkups on the animals, and every six months vets from the non-governmental organization Four Paws also come to perform surgeries and train the animal. local staff”.

Precisely the NGO Four Paws came to the rescue of the lions in 2020 after the photographs went viral and after receiving permission from the Sudanese authorities for a team from the organization, led by the veterinarian Amir Khalil, to provide the animals with the urgently needed food and medical care.

Now, the reserve has 20 lions whose ages range from 6 months to 6 years, distributed in six iron cages, and who need 100 kilos of meat a day, says Saleh.

The most famous of the cats is Mansour (Victorious), which was named this way because it overcame adversity at the Khartoum zoo before being transferred to the reserve, Saleh said.

Close to him and surrounded by her puppies is the popular Kandaka, who was called that because it was the name of one of the ancient Nubian queens. That name appeared during the protests against Al Bashir, since that is how the women who participated in the the demonstrations that brought down the regime.

WELCOME MORE ANIMALS

In the Saleh reserve there are not only lions, as foxes, hyenas and gazelles can be seen frolicking in their spacious cages, inside the reserve, 60% of whose area is still unexploited.

Saleh points out that they do not have financial problems at the moment, but they do need more financial help to bring elephants, giraffes, rhinos, tigers and other animals from other African countries, since it is the next objective of the person in charge after stabilizing the lions.

“We plan to bring elephants, giraffes, rhinos and tigers from other reserves within Sudan, such as from Dinder in southeastern Sudan, near the border with Ethiopia, or from the countries of South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania,” he said. .

African lions are now classified as a “vulnerable” species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as there are an estimated only 23,000 to 39,000 African lions in the wild and three quarters of the population are in slope.

Al Nur al Zaki