The Kings of Sala [Archives:1997/49/Last Page]

December 8 1997

It has several names in Arabic, all indicating courage and ferocity. In English it is the lion – in India kind is known as Felis leo and the African, Leo leo. The male lion weighs between 140 kg and 250 kg, while the female is between 120 kg and 185 kg. Lions live in familial groups of the male, female, and their cubs.
Although the existence of lions in Yemen is not scientifically documented, people living in remote and almost inaccessible areas often recount the seeing of, or even being attacked by, the odd lion. Some people in the governorate of Mahara honestly swear to the existence of lions in their area. The lives of the lions in Sala, Taiz is a completely different story. Although the place where they are kept cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called a zoo, they live and breed quite happily in captivity, thank you. And you still have to pay an entrance fee to see them. Some of the old lions and their offspring still languish in the same old dilapidated place.
Today’s tribe of 16 lions started almost forty years ago with only a lion couple. They were originally brought for the amusement of the Imam and his family in the Imam’s old palace on the Sabr mountain in Taiz. Despite the severe lack of resources, hygiene, and proper veterinary care, these lions are still able to breed successfully – something quite amazing, considering that some world zoos unsuccessfully go to many lengths to make their lion stock breed. A visitor to that place would really feel a lot of pity for the miserable state in which the Taiz lions live. They are “imprisoned” in small, dirty, and very unhealthy stone cages. They are fed with animal bones with very little meat and skin. The lions’ monthly food allowance is YR 40,000, which can only buy 100 kg of meat. Lions are an endangered species that must be protected. Therefore, it quite important that we try to discover and protect Yemen’s wild lions, and properly look after those in captivity.
By Sadek Yahya Al-Osaimi, The Environment Protection Council