At the Israel Primate Sanctuary in central Israel, six Nubian ibexes, two brown lemurs, a rabbit, and different bird species have found refuge, after many days and nights enduring the sounds of rockets and explosions on the Gaza and northern Israeli borders.
Staff and volunteers are looking after them while also continuing to care for its other permanent residents — 900 primates rescued from laboratories, wildlife trafficking and homes.
“The lemurs are fine,” said the rehabilitation center’s deputy director Omer Polansky, adding that the Madagascan primates and many of the other animals they took in from the border communities had experienced a certain degree of stress from the ongoing war, which started on October 7 when some 3,000 Hamas terrorists invaded Israel and went on a killing spree that left around 1,400 people dead, the vast majority of them civilians.
Since then, some 200,000 Israelis have been displaced, both from southern Israel, where the atrocities took place, and from the northern border areas, where attacks from Lebanon continue.
According to Ori Linial, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority’s point man for wild animals in captivity, none of the creatures were left by their owners before arrangements had been made with soldiers or civilians to feed and care for them until they, too, could be spirited away from danger.
One woman traveled daily from the Dead Sea area to feed animals at Kibbutz Be’eri, one of the worst affected by the October 7 massacre, Linial said.
On October 13, a team drawn from the INPA, the Agriculture Ministry’s veterinary service, the Environmental Protection Ministry, and the non-profit For Wildlife organization, swept into Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak and Kibbutz Be’eri, where less than a week earlier residents had faced wholesale slaughter.
Using eight vans and four trailers, and with army support, they evacuated dozens of captive animals, while under constant bombardment from the Gaza enclave.
מבצע לחילוץ חיות מפינות חיות בארי וניר יצחק ביום שישי 13.10.23 על ידי רשות הטבע והגנים , שירותים וטרינרים , משרד הגנת…
Lemurs, meerkats, iguanas, a couple of emus and a giant tortoise were among the more exotic of the animals in need of daily care that were transferred to safer environments — the Israel Primate Sanctuary as well as at Kibbutz Yakum just north of Tel Aviv, Kibbutz Hazorea and the Yodfat Monkey Forest, both in the north.
The rescuers returned to Kibbutz Be’eri at the end of October to take more animals, among them a greater rhea, a species of flightless bird native to South America. The bird is now at the Hai Kef Zoo in central Rishon Lezion.
On Thursday, the Environmental Protection Ministry led a rescue effort to Kibbutz Alumim on the Gaza border, taking rabbits, guinea pigs, gerbils, hamsters, parrots, and other pets. A female soldier had been feeding them, according to Dr. Tamar Fredman, director of the Israel Primate Sanctuary, who took part in the evacuation. Most are now being cared for at Kfar Haclavim, a dog hotel in central Israel.
From the northern kibbutz of Kfar Giladi, the INPA evacuated six Nubian ibex, having to beat a hasty retreat when a siren sounded indicating incoming rockets. A couple of days later, the Environmental Protection Ministry picked up two donkeys from the same place.
Linial emphasized that evacuations were only undertaken with the permission of the owners and on the understanding that the animals would be returned as soon as it was safe to do so.
Despite rumors to the contrary, he said that he was not aware that any wild animals had been abused by the terrorists, although he said gunmen had vandalized a room for small animals at Kibbutz Be’eri, and destroyed a fence there, enabling ibex to escape.
“The bigger and more complex the animal, the bigger the trauma,” Linial explained, adding that the ibex had to be anesthetized before transportation.
The emus and the rhea were weak when the teams arrived, and moving them just added to their stress, he added.
Deer were so sensitive that they do not always survive transportation, he observed. They have remained at the Gaza border kibbutz of Magen.
Dr. Ayelet Shmueli, in charge of animal welfare at the Agriculture Ministry’s veterinary services, was involved with the Nir Yitzhak evacuation. She said she saw rodents who had attacked one another out of stress and usually active African spurred tortoises that were apathetic.
But, she added, “we saw nothing terrible, and animals can recover quickly.”
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