Charity removes 15 animals from ‘worst zoo in world’

An international charity has removed 15 animals from a Gaza Strip zoo, freeing them from what it called “the worst zoo in the world” and hoping to grant them a better life abroad.

Four Paws, an animal welfare group, crossed from Gaza into Israel with a tiger, five monkeys, a porcupine, and an emu, among others. Most of the animals are destined for an animal sanctuary in Jordan while the tiger is headed to a refuge in South Africa.

The animals’ removal effectively closed the long-troubled zoo. The charity said the Khan Younis zoo suffered financial difficulties earlier this year and could not provide the animals with proper care and food. After the zoo owner asked the organisation for help, Four Paws provided food and medical checks. It was later decided he animals would be transferred elsewhere.

“The conditions the animals were under were far from ideal,” said Amir Khalil, leading the Gaza mission for Four Paws. “Their new homes will be a big change.”

There is little awareness of animal welfare in Gaza and the impoverished territory’s zoos have in the past made international headlines. The Khan Younis zoo recently turned to taxidermy to keep its deceased animals on exhibit, while another zoo in the strip painted stripes on donkeys to make them look like zebras.

Four Paws has previously made similar rescues out of Gaza, including the extraction of several lions and lion cubs. The cubs were taken out of a refugee camp after a zoo had sold them as pets to a camp resident.

Mr Khalil said the conditions in the Khan Younis zoo were difficult. The tiger, Laziz, was kept in a 3 sq m cage alongside a taxidermied tiger. In his new home in South Africa, he will roam in a 10,000 sq m enclosure where he will be able to enjoy swimming.

Highlighting the precariousness of the animals’ existence at the zoo, Mr Khalil said a baby deer set to be evacuated died in the lead-up to the mission after being wounded. Its mother was also wounded but was successfully removed.

The animal rescue was co-ordinated with COGAT, the Israeli defence body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs.


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