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Gaza: FOUR PAWS rescues two lion cubs from Rafah refugee camp


Update, 2015-07-06 - Finally a species-appropriate home for the two lion cubs


After months under poor conditions the two lions could finally move into their new species-appropriate habitat in Jordan. Although the past days have been some of the hardest of our entire lives, we are elated that we could finally fulfil our mission and rescue these two lions.

© FOUR PAWS | Tom Benda

Update - 2015-07-05: We are on our way to Jordan


FINALLY: Our mission is completed! Our team together with the two lion cubs finally has permission to leave Gaza. We are now on our way to Jordan, where the two lions will move into their new species-appropriate home.

It's official: The two lion cubs Max and Mona are in our care now.
© FOUR PAWS l Tom Benda

Update - 2015-07-05: The lion cubs are officially in our care


Since Thursday, a FOUR PAWS Team has been in the Gaza Strip trying to rescue two lion cubs from a refugee camp. The good news : the rescue action has been successful! The cubs are officially in our care. However, the mission is not yet completed. Our Team (as well as the cubs) are unfortunately still stuck in Gaza at the border waiting to leave. We are now trying to mobilize all our contacts on site to travel with the whole team to Jordan, the new and final safe home of the lions. Keep your fingers crossed for a happy ending to our mission.

Max and Mona lived in a tiny flat with their owner and his family for the last couple of months.
© FOUR PAWS | 2015

“Mona” and “Max” have become a significant danger for people in the Rafah camp

Photos of the lion cubs in the middle of the refugee camp in the Gaza Strip went around the world: last March, a father of six bought the cubs – then just two months old – from Rafah Zoo as a treat for his grandchildren. The new ‘pets’ quickly pushed the family to their financial and physical limits. Dr Amir Khalil, leader of the FOUR PAWS emergency team, has spent weeks seeking a solution for the cubs, named Mona and Max. The strict travel and access regulations, and dealing with the cubs’ owner, have been proving very challenging for the FOUR PAWS team.

© FOUR PAWS | 2015

In the starting blocks for a new operation in Gaza

FOUR PAWS is confident that it will soon get the go-ahead to enter the Gaza Strip. A team of vets and logistics staff will soon travel to Rafah to rescue the two cubs that are currently held in a refugee camp. The big cats are now five months old, and they’re living with the family – which includes small children – under one roof! We want to get them out of there as quickly as we can, also for the people’s own safety. Both cubs have already grown quite a bit bigger and stronger since their arrival in the refugee camp, and they now represent a significant danger for the inhabitants of the camp.

When they arrive, the team will negotiate with the owner and appeal to him to hand over the cubs. As soon as the lions are handed over to FOUR PAWS they will be transferred to the New Hope Center, the transit station of  Al Ma’wa Wildlife Sanctuary in Jordan.


Although Gaza is small, there are around 40 big cats in captivity. Smuggling of exotic animals is a major problem. Even Mona and Max’s parents are said to have been smuggled to Rafah Zoo as cubs, by underground tunnels from Egypt into Gaza. However, a military conflict last year saw the Egyptian army destroy many of the tunnels.

© FOUR PAWS | 2015

Travel formalities hold up rescue operations

The continuing conflict in the Gaza Strip makes travel in and out extremely difficult. For some time now, FOUR PAWS has been seeking official permission for the rescue. This is not FOUR PAWS’ first operation in the Near East: in September 2014 the organisation carried out an emergency mission in the heavily-damaged Al-Bisan Zoo in the north of the Gaza Strip, and three lions were transferred to a rescue station. In April, a FOUR PAWS emergency team carried out a relief operation to provide medical treatment and food to the animals in the run-down Khan Younis Zoo.


We very much hope that the current owner sees sense, and let us take the lions to a better home for them. They should not be sold on to another zoo.

WATCH: FOUR PAWS to rescue lion cubs from refugee camp in Gaza