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Sudan vets scramble to save park's malnourished lions

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Khartoum (AFP)

Sudanese vets scrambled Thursday to save four surviving captive lions of five that were left sick and malnourished in a Khartoum park during months of political and economic turmoil.

The fifth, a lioness, died on Monday of dehydration and lack of food despite receiving intravenous fluids for several days following the launch of an online campaign for veterinary help.

The animals had lost as much as two-thirds of their body weight as a result of going unfed for weeks as Sudan's chronic cash shortage hit donations.

"It is the failure of park administrators. They are not providing the animals with food," said veterinarian Mudassar Abu Sufian, who is now monitoring the health of the four lions.

He said the lioness that died on Monday had "starved to death".

"The lioness died of malnutrition and from an overall contaminated environment it lived in."

Al-Qureshi Park is managed by Khartoum municipality but funded in part by private donations, which have dried up in the face of the economic crisis that triggered nationwide protests though much of last year.

"I fully blame the wild life police. We have a contract with them and according to it they have to provide the meat," said Badrelddine Suleiman, a private donor operating the park along with the municipality.

"If there is any shortage of meat they have to make up for it. We have done enough."

An online campaign under the hashtag #Sudananimalrescue launched by a Khartoum based software engineer Osman Salih to help save the lions has grown over the past few days.

"It's so upsetting. These lions have been suffering for so long," Salih told AFP.

"We were so late in rescuing them and were unable to save the one that died."

A second lioness was also sick but her condition has improved, and AFP correspondent reported after touring Al-Qureshi Park in an upscale district of Khartoum.

Salih said a group of international wildlife conservationists had contacted him offering their help to save the lions.

"They are specialists and are planning to come to Khartoum with their kits and resources," he said.

It is not known how many lions survive in the wild in Sudan, but a population lives in Dinder National Park on the border with Ethiopia.

African lions are classified as a "vulnerable" species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Their population dropped by 43 percent between 1993 and 2014, with perhaps only 20,000 left in the wild.

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