Release of the Sudan lions at LIONSROCK

Feb 2024


Rescued Sudan Lions Find Sanctuary

A journey from conflict to sanctuary 


In a heartwarming rescue mission, eleven lions that endured the ravages of conflict in Sudan have found a new lease on life at LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary. These majestic big cats, caught in the crossfire of war, witnessed great trials and tragedies while trapped in their war-torn country of origin. They have been given a second chance thanks to the tireless and selfless efforts of the team from FOUR PAWS, a global animal welfare organisation.

A War-Torn Tale

In November 2023, amidst the chaos of the war erupting of Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, 48 wild animals were trapped in the middle of a conflict zone. Their lives hung in the balance as violence erupted around them. These animals were exposed to trauma, emaciation, the constant threat of injury and getting weaker and weaker. Like so many of the local inhabitants, their caretakers were forced to flee their country that had now turned into a war zone. One brave caretaker remained behind to care for all surviving animals.

The animals were further traumatised by the war when their enclosures were damaged from the ammunition used during the battles that were raging around them. This resulted in various groups of different animal species being mixed together within enclosures.   

FOUR PAWS to the Rescue

FOUR PAWS, unwaveringly committed to safeguarding animals in distress, stepped in to begin the rescue mission. Their team bravely evacuated the animals from the conflict zone, providing them with a glimmer of hope. But the journey was just beginning.  

These magnificent big cats had endured nine months of suffering, witnessing the tragedies of war firsthand. Their physical and emotional scars ran deep. Yet, they responded positively to the treatment and care received along the way.

This mammoth task required the assistance of Sudanese officers to secure the convoy of human and animals through more than 50 checkpoints, each requiring pages of paperwork approving the removal and relocation of the lions.

The team often spent their nights attending to the lions, filling out more paperwork and planning their routes for the next day. Moreso, the crew faced curfews, blackouts, flooded streets, lack of infrastructure, and limited access to food and clean water.

After days of constant travel, the lions finally reached a safe haven within Wad Madani, Sudan - Um Barona National Park. The team handed over the animals to the Sudanese authorities at the national park as FOUR PAWS was requested to only evacuate the animals from war-zone and not the country itself.

It is important to note that the mission was funded by FOUR PAWS, from the evacuation, the feeding, associated veterinary costs, animal caretakers and the enclosures that were to be built for the animals.

Lions on the Move

However, news of dismay and despair reached FOUR PAWS as the Sudanese government informed them that the war had reached the national park which was meant to keep the animals safe. The government once again requested the philanthropic services of FOUR PAWS to re-enter Sudan and re-rescue the lions.

However, due to the state of the war in Wad Madani, the FOUR PAWS team could not enter the area and arranged for the lions to be removed from the national park and be transported to Kassala, Sudan. This daunting journey became more treacherous as the trucks that the lions were being transported in ran the risk of being struck during a missile air strike. Fortunately, a day later, the animals arrived in Gadaref, 4 hours away from Kassala. The FOUR PAWS team took over the animals and transported them back to Kassala.  

The team wasted no time in assessing the wellbeing of the lions as they were kept in the very same crates for two months – the time from which FOUR PAWS handed the animals over at Um Barona National Park.

With the war creeping closer and closer to Kassala, time was of the essence. The team had to work well into the night and into the early hours of the next morning to tend to the lions and their relocation. The most important tasks at hand were to tend to their wounds, clean and repair the crates and prepare paperwork for the rest of the journey ahead. 

The lack of necessary equipment required the team to seek assistance from the locals, to carry the crates (with lions in them) and load them onto vehicles and then onto trucks. The team decided to make their way up to the mountains as these provided cooler conditions for the lions but in turn left the crew without accommodation or even bathing facilities – a testament to the unwavering and selfless commitment to the welfare of the animals.

The team faced yet another challenge as they all could not secure a flight out of Sudan due to locals attempting to flee the country. The team would have to wait two weeks before getting a flight out of the war-torn country. Alas, after a day of phone calls, the team were able to secure a flight for all crew members and animals from Sudan to Jordan.

After landing, the three lions, hyenas and serval cat found their forever home at Al Ma’wa in Jordan, while the 11 other lion awaited transit to their home in South Africa. Where the lions received further care and monitoring. 

Here the last leg of the lions’ journey started as the FOUR PAWS team now wanted to transfer these lions to LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa - a species-appropriate forever home where they can be cared for by a team of experts. 

A New Home

On 16 February, the lions embarked on a life-changing journey. They were transferred to the LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa. The sanctuary staff at LIONSROCK had prepared four interconnected enclosures, known as the Special Care Unit for the lions. These spaces allowed for monitoring and grouping based on gender and behaviour. Importantly, LIONSROCK’s various policies, ensure the well-being of these rescued lions. 

Here, the lions found solace, specialized care, and the chance to heal from the emotional and physical wounds sustained during their challenging journey. 

The behaviour expressed by the lions are ones of comfort, happiness and stress-free. 

A Symbol of Hope

As the lions stepped onto the grass in their new home, they became ambassadors for hope. Their presence symbolises the urgent need for change in how humans treat animals. Conflicts may arise worldwide, causing humanitarian crises, but we must also protect the innocent creatures caught in the crossfire.

LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary remains dedicated to caring for and protecting these lions for the rest of their lives. Their mission extends beyond rescue—it aims to prevent suffering in the first place. As we witness these lions begin their recovery, we are reminded of our responsibility to create a world where animals thrive, even amidst adversity.

The story of the Sudanese lions serves as a beacon of resilience, compassion, and transformation. Let us celebrate their newfound forever home and continue working towards a future where all creatures find safety and solace.

We congratulate the teams on their fantastic success – and mourn the loss of animals that could not be saved.

Note: Any advertisements that may appear during the viewing of this video are unrelated to FOUR PAWS. We assume no liability for this content.

Release of female Sudan lion


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