Three lions have been shot dead in Sudan after trying to escape their cages at a base run by Sudan’s feared paramilitary forces, a shelter official said Thursday.
The lions – a species listed as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature – were born two years ago at the Sudan Animal Rescue Center south of the capital Khartoum, said Moataz Kamal, an official at the center.
But the lions – named Leo, Renas and Amani – were recently sold and taken to a private farm owned by the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces in Omdurman, the capital’s twin city, he said.
RSF forces emerged from the Janjaweed militia, which was notorious for alleged war crimes during the conflict in Sudan’s western Darfur region, and are also accused of quelling sit-ins in Khartoum.
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The Sudan Animal Rescue Center said in a statement that on Tuesday evening they “received a call from an RSF official that the three lions had fled their enclosure.”
“We immediately mobilized our team and equipment and developed a plan to safely capture or sedate the lions,” the statement added.
The rescue team was later told it was “not meant to come” and that the three lions “were shot.”
The Animal Rescue Center in Sudan opened in 2021 after an online campaign to save malnourished and sick lions at a derelict Khartoum zoo.
Volunteers have since faced major challenges keeping the reserve running, especially given Sudan’s biting economic crisis, exacerbated by last year’s military coup.
According to Kamal, the reserve remains home to about 18 lions.
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It is not known how many lions survive in the wild in Sudan.
One population lives in Dinder National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, on the border with Ethiopia.
Across Africa, their population declined by 43 percent between 1993 and 2014, with an estimated 20,000 remaining in the wild.