In December 2022, Leo, Renas, and Amani, three lions who tried to escape from their enclosure inside a base of Sudan’s paramilitary forces, were shot dead. The lions had recently been sold by the Sudan Animal Rescue Center, south of the capital Khartoum, to a private farm owned by the powerful paramilitary force of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and located in Omdurman, a suburb northwest of Khartoum.
The Sudan Animal Rescue Center said in a statement: “After receiving a call from an RSF officer that the three lions had escaped from their enclosure … we immediately mobilized our teams, took our equipment and put in place a plan to capture the lions and inject them with sedatives without harming them.” But the rescue team were then told the lions had been killed.
The Sudan Animal Rescue Center, which still keeps 18 lions, opened in 2021 following an online campaign to save malnourished lions in a dilapidated Khartoum Zoo. However, if it sold some lions to private individuals, it’s difficult to see how it is described as a rescue centre or a sanctuary, rather than a zoo — like the ones it claims rescues animals from. Whether they sold the lions voluntarily or were somehow forced to sell them to the paramilitaries is not clear, as Sudan faces an economic crisis exacerbated by the military coup led more than a year ago by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane.
It is estimated that almost one-third of Sudan’s people were in need of humanitarian assistance in 2022. The number of lions living in Sudan is not known, but the lion population in Africa declined by 43% from 1993 to 2014, and according to some estimates only 20,000 remain living in the wild.