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Mosul’s last zoo animals Simba and Lula are saved


The mission of the international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS to rescue bear Lula and lion Simba from the bombed-out Montazah Al-Morour zoo of Mosul (Iraq) finally came to a happy ending. After months of starving, suffering in bomb damaged cages without proper care in a desolate zoo inside the worn-torn city of Mosul, and nine days of waiting at the checkpoint near the border between Iraqi army controlled territory and Kurdistan region, both animals have finally safely arrived at the rescue and rehabilitation centre New Hope in Amman (Jordan). The rescue team of FOUR PAWS were able to release Lula and Simba  into their enclosures this morning, where they can recover from the past strains under the surveillance and protection of veterinarians and animal keepers.


FOUR PAWS veterinarian and leader of the mission Dr Amir Khalil: “It was an authentic odyssey. But now we are so happy that we could bring Lula and Simba to New Hope Centre where they are well cared for. From now on they will have a new and much better life with proper food, medical care, species appropriate environment and without living in constant danger of a nearby war-zone and  the noise of bomb blasts in the background.”


Until two weeks ago, the two zoo animals lived in horrible conditions in the bombed-out Montazah Al-Morour zoo of Mosul. On their way to safety they had to endure an ordeal. The odyssey started on Tuesday, the 28th of March, when the FOUR PAWS team entered Mosul Zoo for the first rescue attempt. The animal welfare team managed to anaesthetise bear Lula and lion Simba, to load them in  prepared crates on a truck and to travel with them to the border out of Mosul. However, the mission came to an abrupt stop at a checkpoint near the border, when the team was told it was not allowed to exit Mosul. The Iraqi military subsequently took the animals back to the zoo while the FOUR PAWS team had to leave Mosul. Dr Khalil: “We never got to know the exact details why we were not allowed to pass, but of course transporting large wild animals in an area with such a complex political situation is not easy and the military has to check all permissions thoroughly.”


Dr Khalil and his team negotiated with Iraqi military and authorities and entered Mosul for the second rescue attempt two days later. However, the animal welfare workers and the zoo animals were stopped at the checkpoint near the border out of Mosul again. Days of waiting, organising and further negotiations began, while the animals were stuck in their transport crates at the checkpoint. Despite the difficult circumstances, the FOUR PAWS team managed to take good care of the animals, and to provide them with food and water. Dr Khalil who was with them during this trying time and was sleeping in a small room provided by the military: “Our mission in Iraq was supported by many locals and proved that even in the worst of hardships there are people who care for animals. I am very touched to have experienced the humanity of the civilian population as well as military. Many of the soldiers shared their food with the animals.”


Lula and Simba will stay in their temporary enclosure in the New Hope Centre until they have adapted to their new surroundings and until their permanent enclosure – which is currently being set up – is ready for them. The New Hope Centre in Amman is a rescue and rehabilitation centre FOUR PAWS is cooperating with. FOUR PAWS financially supported the construction of the New Hope Centre established in January 2010 by the Princess Alia Foundation. The purpose of the centre is to provide rehoming, rehabilitation and medical treatment for animals rescued from very poor keeping conditions, and allow them to live out the remainder of their lives in an appropriate sanctuary.


FOUR PAWS set up donation pages, where animal lovers from all over the world can help to give Lula and Simba a pleasant and species-appropriate new home with enough space for them to act out their natural instincts:


The Montazah Al-Morour zoo was hit by bombs and severely damaged during an armed conflict between IS and the Iraqi forces over a month ago. About 40 animals died – some starved, others were directly killed by the bomb attacks, while others fled from their damaged cages. FOUR PAWS was the first NGO to receive permission to enter Mosul. Dr Khalil was in the Mosul zoo in February to examine the bear and the lion, to treat them and to organize with volunteers the regular feeding of the animals.