Man's Photos Of Starving Lions Sparks Effort To Save Them

His social media posts galvanized donors and an international animal rescue organization which rushed to help.

When Osman Salih visited the Al-Qureshi Park zoo in the Sudanese capital of Kartoum, he saw something that, in his words, made his "blood boil". He saw starving animals, including five emaciated lions, two of them so near death they couldn't stand.

Kandanka weighed just a third of her normal body weight.Osman Salih/Facebook

Salih did the only thing he knew to do. He took pictures and videos and posted them to Facebook, started a GoFundMe campaign, and reached out to an international organization that rescues abused animals like lions. The response has been nothing short of astounding.

Mansour the lion was considered to be in critical condition.Osman Salih/Facebook

Salih was the first to show images and video of the starving lion Mansour and lioness Kandaka on his Facebook page after visiting the zoo on Saturday January 18.

Salih and local residents quickly got to work. People donated food for the animals, which included two starving hyenas (one turned out to be pregnant), about a dozen filthy tortoises and a cage of mangy eagles. Salih and volunteers started feeding the animals, administering what little medicine they could find, giving them water and cleaning the animals and their cages.

Volunteers clean the tortoises' filthy shells (BTW, the turtle far right is alive).Osman Salih/Facebook

On January 27, a veterinary team from Four Paws International arrived at Al Qurashi. They were delayed by government red tape that prevented them from quickly getting into the country. "Our team is shocked by the conditions on-site," one team member wrote on the Four Paws website.

"The living conditions are horrendous."

The doctors thought they might be too late to save the animals, especially Mansour and Kandanka. "She is dehydrated, malnourished, has almost no muscles and weighs only a third of the normal body weight for a lion," one of the team wrote. Vets Amir Khalil and Frank Goeritz started rehydration therapy on Kandaka immediately.

How were conditions allowed to get this bad? Time reports that Al-Qureshi Park and its animals are likely victims of the economic crisis in Sudan, where prices for food for people are sky high, leaving little food or resources for animals.

Activist Zuhair al-Sarag told Time he thinks funds meant for the park were diverted. "This is actually a crime," said Zuhair, who reported that the park was once full of animals, many of whom may already have died. "Someone should be held accountable."

The good news is, thanks to the impassioned response of donors around the world, and the skill of the Four Paws team, it looks like the remaining animals will survive.

In just two weeks both of the critically ill lions have gained weight and energy. Kandanka, who couldn't stand is now able to use her hind legs again. And Mansour has been able to climb a tree limb that volunteers put into his cage.

The next step will be to find permanent homes for the animals where they'll be well cared for. For his part, Salih is overjoyed that his few photos on Facebook had such a big impact. "You are all amazing and we couldn't do all of this without you!"

International Response To Save Starving Zoo Animals In Sudan

The eagles were also given a full physical exam by Four Paws doctors, including Dr. Frank Goeritz.

How can you start something good?

It's hard not to be moved by the pictures and videos of these neglected animals.

You can help by donating to Salih's GoFundMe campaign, although be aware that U.S. sanctions on Sudan may prevent the zoo from receiving funds, at least right away. You can also donate to Four Paws whose veterinary team is saving the Al Qurashi Park animals and whose vets travel the world helping neglected animals.

The Conversation
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