search
Roaring refugeesRoaring refugees

Gaza lions go to Jordan via Israel

Strip zoo’s two males and female travel to new home after pen damaged in summer shelling; animal welfare representative says 80 animals died during conflict

Staff prepare a lion to be transferred from the Gaza Strip's Bisan City tourist village zoo to Jordan through the Erez crossing with Israel, on September 30, 2014 in an operation organised by NGO Four Paws. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED)
Staff prepare a lion to be transferred from the Gaza Strip's Bisan City tourist village zoo to Jordan through the Erez crossing with Israel, on September 30, 2014 in an operation organised by NGO Four Paws. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED)

Three traumatized lions entered Israel from Gaza Tuesday on their way to a safer home in Jordan after their zoo was largely destroyed during the summer conflict in the Palestinian enclave.

Austrian veterinarians from international animal welfare group Four Paws took charge of bringing the animals from the Al-Bisan zoo in the Gaza Strip to a zoo in Amman, obtaining special permission to pass through Israel. The big cats were sedated, placed in metal cages and loaded onto a truck that transferred them through the Erez border crossing into Israel.

Amir Khalil of Four Paws said the lions — two males and a female — were in desperate need of help after their zoo came under heavy fire during the 50-day conflict, which ended with an August 26 ceasefire.

“The animals are stressed, violent and afraid of the slightest movement,” he said. “The animals are very sensitive and the detonations from the bombings and explosions had a very strong impact on them.”

Khalil said the zoo was badly damaged from Israeli shelling, and that 80 animals were killed during the conflict.

The Al-Bisan zoo had four lions before the conflict but said one of them — a female — was killed by Israeli bombardment.

Khalil said the vets had treated several animals that will remain at the zoo and are suffering from a lack of food and water. They also removed shrapnel from the bodies of several dead animals.

The zoo is hoping to rebuild its lion enclosure so the animals can one day return to Gaza but no potential date has been set for their return.

The zoo — part of Al-Bisan City — was built by the Islamist Hamas government in 2008 as a tourist village to give Gazans some relief from the hardships of life in the Strip.

The animals were all smuggled through tunnels that connected Egypt to Gaza, before the passages were shut last year with the ouster of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, a key ally of Hamas.

Concerns have previously been raised about the welfare of animals at the zoo, especially given Gaza’s limited resources. Last year two lion cubs died at the zoo shortly after birth due to a lack of experienced vets, food and medicine.

read more:
comments
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed