International animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS has obtained shocking footage from inside Gaza's oldest zoo in Rafah. At the end of January this year, the claws of a young lioness were brutally removed with garden shears, leaving the animal mutilated and suffering. The reason behind the excruciating procedure is that the owner of the zoo allows visitors to play with the 14-month-old lioness. Her claws were removed to reduce the risk of human injury. The footage of the mutilated lioness comes just weeks after four lion cubs froze to death at the same zoo.
FOUR PAWS strongly condemns the brutal amputation and demands the closure of the zoo, where over 40 more animals are kept in dreadful conditions. The animal protection organisation has already opened negotiations with the responsible authorities.
For big cats, removing the claws is a particularly vicious procedure with long-lasting damage. Natural behaviour, such as grabbing food or climbing, is hardly possible without an animal’s claws. Concerningly, since the amputation was not done in a proper veterinary clinic, the chance of infection is high.
"Claws are, so to speak, the fingers and toes of lions. Their removal is animal cruelty and forbidden worldwide. This brutal procedure is often compared to the amputation of all fingers of a human up to the first knuckle. We are shocked that the owner of Rafah Zoo allowed this procedure. The motives are also distressing. For humans, a lion is a dangerous predator and not a playmate. The zoo owner has once again shown that he is irresponsible with the lives of humans and animals. We urge the responsible authorities to close the zoo and find the best solution for the animals. FOUR PAWS is ready to help."
Dr Amir Khalil, FOUR PAWS veterinarian
Dr Khalil has extensive experience in animal rescue missions in the region, having evacuated two zoos in Gaza in 2014 and 2016.
FOUR PAWS has launched a global petition calling for the closure of the zoo and the introduction of animal welfare legislation that will combat the illegal trafficking of animals as well as keeping of animals in improper conditions. The petition reached almost 90,000 signatures in under one week.
Gaza’s Rafah Zoo: over 40 animals are suffering
The small zoo in Rafah was opened in 1999 and is in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip, close to the Egyptian border. Since its opening, many animals have died due to rocket attacks and armed conflict. Some of the dead zoo animals have been stuffed and are on display.
Currently, dozens of live animals – including five lions, a hyena, several monkeys, wolves, emus, cats, dogs and exotic birds – live in tiny and desolate cages at Rafah Zoo.
Poor keeping conditions as well as a lack of food and medical care have left their marks on the animals, whose welfare is of primary concern to FOUR PAWS. Adding to our immediate concern is the disturbing recent history of the zoo. At the beginning of the year, the zoo made headlines after four lion cubs froze to death.
FOUR PAWS: numerous rescue missions in Gaza
FOUR PAWS is committed to finally putting an end to the suffering of the animals of Rafah Zoo. First negotiations with those responsible have already begun.
FOUR PAWS has been active in Gaza since 2014 and has already evacuated and closed down two zoos – Al-Bisan Zoo and Khan Younis Zoo – in the region. The former zoo inhabitants were transferred to FOUR PAWS sanctuaries.
The zoo in Rafah is well known to the international animal welfare organisation. In 2015, the owner of the zoo sold two lion cubs, Max and Mona, to a local citizen who gave them to his grandchildren as a gift. Photos of the two lions in the middle of a refugee camp went around the world, shocking the global community.
FOUR PAWS confiscated the cubs and brought them to its sanctuary in Jordan, where they are now thriving in an environment suited to their species.
FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them.
Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. FOUR PAWS’ sustainable campaigns and projects focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, animals in fashion, and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, orangutans and elephants – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones.
With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in 12 countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org.au