Israeli and Palestinian handlers have transferred a sick lioness from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank to join its mate.
Uri Madar, an Israeli official from COGAT, an Israeli defense body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs, inspected the 7-year-old feline Monday as it entered Israel en route to its new home at a Palestinian zoo in the West Bank.
He said it was a “joyful day for all animal lovers.” Some 41 big cats, including lions and tigers, are held “not in ideal conditions” in Gaza, he said.
The lioness, weighing about 200 pounds, was moved by crane through Erez crossing from Gaza to Israel, COGAT said in a post on their Facebook page.
— COGAT (@cogat_israel) April 11, 2016
The lioness had been smuggled into Gaza through a tunnel when it was a few months old.
According to COGAT, the Agriculture Ministry in Gaza requested the move due to “poor health conditions of the lioness.”
“Similar to the previous transfers, this transfer was possible thanks to the coordination of a complex process carried out in recent days between the Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza and the Agriculture Coordinator of COGAT’s Coordination and Liaison Administration for Gaza,” it said.
The lioness’s journey follows that of her mate that was transferred last month from Rafah Zoo in southern Gaza to Tulkarem in the West Bank.
Monday’s transfer marked the fifth time a lion has been moved from the coastal enclave to the West Bank in the last year and a half.
Conditions in Gaza, home to 1.8 million people, have steadily deteriorated since the Hamas terror group seized control of the territory in 2007 and prompted an Israeli and Egyptian blockade.
In June 2015, two young lions that had been kept as pets in a Gaza refugee camp were taken to Jordan to join a wildlife sanctuary.
A Gaza family had bought those lions as cubs from a local zoo that was damaged in the summer 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.