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FOUR PAWS Back at Work at Khan Younis Zoo, Gaza


Team on site carries out medical checks and seeks a solution for remaining animals


International animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS has already carried out emergency relief missions in the Gaza Strip several times, to save animals from starvation. Now the Khan Younis Zoo has called for help: as the zoo owner has already had to sell several of his animals due to lack of funds, he now wishes to find a better solution for his remaining animals, with the help of FOUR PAWS. These animals include Laziz, the last tiger in Gaza, and a colourful menagerie of other species, such as a porcupine, tortoises, apes and others. All these animals are somewhat neglected, and urgently need medical care. A FOUR PAWS team was able to enter Gaza yesterday and intends to stay there until the end of the week  thoroughly evaluating the situation on the ground.


Dr Amir Khalil, team leader of the emergency mission in Gaza: “A long-term solution must be found for the animals as soon as possible. We’re going to give the animals medical treatment, and also check the enclosures for safety. This is a priority, because in the worst case even visitors to the zoo could end up in danger if Laziz the tiger, or one of the other wild animals, escapes and runs free. We will then work with everyone involved to establish which approaches are feasible.”


Several months ago, Khan Younis Zoo earned a dubious reputation as “worst zoo in the world”, when it came to light that the owner was not only having trouble looking after his living animals, but was also displaying the dead ones mummified in their enclosures. Dr Khalil: “We’re hoping that our talks and our evaluation of the situation here will help us find the best possible solution for the animals.”


FOUR PAWS was also called in to help in Gaza back in February, and since then has been looking for a long-term solution for the problem. However, the organisation has run up against a variety of obstacles. A particularly harsh winter in Gaza saw visitor numbers fall, and the zoos there were able to generate very little income. FOUR PAWS organised fodder distribution to help the affected animals ward off starvation. In the meantime, the financial situation has somewhat improved, but the animals are still having to live in extremely poor conditions and without adequate medical care.


Aside from the logistical barriers that hinder operations in Gaza, there are also no legal provisions concerning the private keeping of wild animals there. This means that FOUR PAWS can only step in to help if all involved parties are prepared to cooperate.


FOUR PAWS carried out its first Gaza operations back in September 2014 in the badly damaged Al-Bisan Zoo in the north of the Strip. Three lions were transferred to a rescue centre in Jordan. In April 2015, a FOUR PAWS emergency relief team provided medical treatment and fodder to the animals in the derelict Khan Younis Zoo. Then, in September, FOUR PAWS recovered two lion cubs from a refugee camp. Rafah Zoo had sold them as “pets” to a father of six in the camp.