Starving lions in Sudan

FOUR PAWS rescues nearly 50 wild animals trapped in conflict zone in Sudan 

Starving lions, hyenas, and wildcats were relocated to temporary safe space in daring mission


6 December 2023 2023 – Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS returned to Sudan for the urgent evacuation of 46 wild animals from the high conflict escalation zone in the south of Khartoum – one of its biggest and most dangerous rescue missions to date.  

Due to the ongoing humanitarian crisis as well as the increasing risks for humans and animals on-site, Sudan Animal Rescue (SAR), who runs a local rescue centre, asked FOUR PAWS for help.  FOUR PAWS experts together with local support, evacuated the animals, including lions, hyenas, wildcats, birds, and deer from the conflict zone, in a high-profile two-day action. Sadly, not all animals survived.  

The surviving animals received veterinary care and were relocated to a safe area in Um Barona National Park. The Sudanese Wildlife authorities will now take over the care of the animals and look into a sustainable long-term solution together with FOUR PAWS. 

Sudan has been shattered by war since armed conflicts broke out in April 2023. 5.5 million people have since left the country. There is a lack of electricity, food, and water.  

The FOUR PAWS team, including veterinarians and wildlife experts, has been preparing the logistic challenge of relocating the large number of animals under extremely difficult circumstances tirelessly.  

Both parties involved in the ongoing conflict granted the FOUR PAWS team permission to enter capital city Khartoum to swiftly evacuate all animals from the premises of Sudan Animal Rescue.  

“Conflicts not only affect humans but also animals. Given the high-risk circumstances, our priority was to safely evacuate all the animals from Sudan Animal Rescue in Khartoum as fast as possible,” says FOUR PAWS veterinarian Dr Amir Khalil, who led the evacuation and relocation of the animals. 


“This was a huge challenge for our team but we are relieved that we got nearly 50 animals out of the immediate dangers of the conflict zone. Sadly, multiple lions and other animals have recently died due to disease and hunger, resorting to eating each other. The surviving animals are very thin and weak, despite the best efforts of the remaining caretakers. We provided immediate veterinary care and medication after bringing them to safety. During the upcoming weeks we will be working with the Sudanese authorities to find sustainable long-term solutions for the animals,” 

FOUR PAWS veterinarian Dr Amir Khalil, who led the evacuation and relocation of the animals

“It is saddening to see how much suffering these animals had to endure due to the ongoing conflicts and challenging situation in Sudan but we are glad to see them on the way to a better future. We are grateful to all involved parties on the ground that gave our FOUR PAWS team permission to save these animals, who are innocents trapped in a human conflict. This shows how dedication and great cooperation can spark hope. Reveal, rescue, protect – these three verbs define how we operate. Now that we have brought the animals to safety, we will find a sustainable long-term solution for them together with the Sudanese authorities and our global network.” 

FOUR PAWS CEO Josef Pfabigan

Starving lions, more animals discovered 

The daring evacuation of took several days, with last minute route changes due to safety concerns as the original road had been locked down due to on-going conflicts. On the alternative route, the FOUR PAWS team had to cross several checkpoints, where all luggage was carefully examined by armed soldiers. 

Upon arrival at the centre, the animals were much worse than feared, with the lions in terrible condition and in need of immediate veterinary help. 
One lion, Leo, was doing particularly badly: he had collapsed from emaciation, so all FOUR PAWS veterinarians focused on him immediately. Unfortunately, despite our teams’ best efforts and doing everything possible to save lion Leo, it was simply too late for him and he passed away. 
Tragically, Leo was not the only one. Several other animals died before our arrival due to disease, thirst, and hunger, or having to resort to eating each other.  

After the emotional events the day before, FOUR PAWS vet and mission leader Dr Amir Khalil and his team safely moved the remaining wild animals into transport boxes and loaded them using cranes all onto trucks – a colossal logistical undertaking under stressful conditions.  
The evacuation of 15 lions and five hyenas, a serval, a sand cat, and a common genet to a temporary safe zone in Wad Madani, Um Barona National park, was a success.  

As our rescue team proceeded with the loading and getting ready for departure, they found more animals, which they were not informed about prior.  

Two eagles, a stork, gazelles as well as grey crowned cranes and peafowls were discovered in cages, so they too were safely transported onto vehicles for evacuation.  
In total, our FOUR PAWS team rescued 46 wild animals that day, and no animal was left behind.  

For months, FOUR PAWS has been supporting SAR with costs for food, medicine, and staff, and provided veterinary knowledge and advice, and will continue to work for the long-term care for these animals. 


Expertise in disaster, crisis, and conflict zones 

Emergency animal rescues in delicate situations are no new territory for FOUR PAWS. The experts from the Rapid Response team have already worked in countries such as Libya, Sri Lanka, Kenia in the past or recently disaster relief in Türkiye and Syria after the devastating earthquake. In 2016 and 2019 they evacuated three zoos in the Gaza Strip.  

In 2017, FOUR PAWS rescued 13 animals from an amusement park near Aleppo in Syria as well as the last two surviving bears and lions from a zoo in Mosul, Iraq.  

FOUR PAWS first became active in Sudan in 2020 to provide the nearly starved lions Kandaka and Mansour with urgent medical care and food. The zoo where they were kept was closed shortly after. FOUR PAWS relocated the lions to the newly built rescue centre of the local animal welfare organisation Sudan Animal Rescue, where they could regain strength for the planned relocation. After a delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions around the world, FOUR PAWS was finally able to transfer Kandaka and Mansour to their forever home at Al Ma’wa for Nature and Wildlife in Jordan in November 2022.  

Rescue mission in Karthoum, Sudan

Support our rescue mission in Sudan

Give now
Elise Burgess

Elise Burgess

Head of Communications

M: 0423 873 382

FOUR PAWS Australia
GPO Box 2845 

Main Phone: 1800 454 228

FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them.

Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, animals in fashion, farm animals, and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones.

With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA, and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions.

Share now!