Two lions rescued from Gaza arrive at FOUR PAWS sanctuary in South Africa

Motan and Pisa finally get the chance to heal from their difficult past at LIONSROCK


11.4.2019 – Two lions just rescued from the Gaza Strip by international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS have safely arrived in South Africa on 10th April. In its biggest emergency mission to date, FOUR PAWS rescued a total of 47 animals from a neglected zoo in Rafah, Gaza on 7th April. Most of the animals were brought to Jordanian wildlife sanctuaries. However, FOUR PAWS transferred lion Motan and lioness Pisa to its South African big cat sanctuary LIONSROCK, a species-appropriate home where they will receive the special care they urgently need.

The two lions, named Motan and Pisa by FOUR PAWS, landed at OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg on 10th April after which they were transported to LIONSROCK. “The lions arrived in a relatively good condition. We will release them in a special care unit. This is important during their adaption phase to ensure they get used to their new surroundings and caretakers. Both will be closely monitored, and we will evaluate their well-being throughout,” says Hildegard Pirker, head of the animal welfare department of LIONSROCK – a FOUR PAWS sanctuary that houses over 100 big cats rescued from zoos, circuses, war-torn areas and the canned hunting industry.

A lifelong home for big cats

In previous years, FOUR PAWS has been successful in saving animals from Iraq, Syria and Gaza – with most of them have come to LIONSROCK. Motan and Pisa will join the likes of Simba and Saeed, two lions rescued from zoos in Mosul and outside Aleppo in 2017, as well as tiger Laziz rescued from a zoo in Gaza in 2016.

“All these animals survived unbearable conditions. At LIONSROCK we provide them with a home that gives them the peace, safety and comfort in an environment that enables them to heal. We have been fortunate enough to witness their remarkable recoveries to the point where they really are behaving as the lions and tigers that they were born to be,” 

says FOUR PAWS veterinarian Amir Khalil, who heads the missions in conflict and war zones.

From Gaza via Israel to Jordan and South Africa

After months of preparations and several attempts, FOUR PAWS’ most recent and biggest emergency rescue mission took them to Gaza on 4th April. Within four days, the team, consisting of veterinarians and wildlife experts, were ready to start the almost 300-kilometre journey with 47 rescued animals to Jordan early in the morning on 7th April. In the late evening, FOUR PAWS arrived with the animals at the wildlife sanctuaries, about one hour away from Amman. There, the majority of the animals were released into their new, species-appropriate enclosures. Among them was a declawed lioness, whose brutal mutilation caused public outrage around the globe at the beginning of the year. She and her two siblings found a new home at the wildlife rescue centre “Al Ma'wa for Nature and Wildlife” – a joint project of the Princess Alia Foundation and FOUR PAWS. Only the two older lions Motan and Pisa continued their journey to South Africa via plane.

International collaboration for the zoo animals from Rafah

In addition to working closely with the local authorities, the American journalist and businessman Eric S. Margolis and the French animal welfare organisation “Fondation 30 Millions d'Amis” supported the latest FOUR PAWS rescue mission with generous donations. FOUR PAWS has been active in Gaza since 2014 and has already evacuated and closed two zoos – Al-Bisan Zoo and Khan Younis Zoo – in the region. After the rescue of the Rafah zoo animals, there are only two more zoos left in the Gaza Strip.

Elise Burgess

Elise Burgess

Head of Communications

M: 0423 873 382

FOUR PAWS Australia
GPO Box 2845 

Main Phone: 1800 454 228

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 and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, animals in fashion, farm animals, and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones.

With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA, and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions.

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