Three lions were shot dead in Sudan after trying to escape from their enclosure inside a base of Sudan's feared paramilitary forces, an animal shelter official said Thursday.
Named Leo, Renas and Amani, the felines were born two years ago in a reserve south of the capital Khartoum, the Sudan Animal Rescue Center, said one of its representatives, Moataz Kamal.
Classified as a "vulnerable" species, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the lions had recently been sold and moved 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, he said.
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," the centre said in a statement.
Later, the rescue team was told "there was no need to come" because the lions "had been shot," the statement said.
The Sudan Animal Rescue Center opened in 2021 following an online campaign to save sick and malnourished lions in a dilapidated Khartoum zoo.
Volunteers have since faced the challenge of keeping the reserve running smoothly, especially as Sudan faces an economic crisis exacerbated by the military coup led more than a year ago by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhane. The reserve is still home to 18 lions, according to Kamal.
The number of lions living in Sudan is not known, but some of the cats are in Dinder National Park, a biosphere reserve near the border with Ethiopia.
The lion population in Africa declined by 43% from 1993 to 2014, and only 20,000 remain living in the wild, according to some estimates.