Reuters reported that nearly 50 animals have been rescued from Rafah zoo on Sunday where animals had died from exposure to harsh weather and starvation.
On Sunday, the animals were rescued from a Rafah Zoo in Gaza to Jordan by the animal welfare charity called Four Paws. The rescuers said it was the charity’s largest rescue mission to-date.
Forty-five animals will stay in animal sanctuaries in Jordan and two lions were flown to South Africa on Monday.
The charity’s veterinarian and the mission’s head Amir Khalil said, “The intensive work of the last weeks has brought our team to its limits. To examine and load almost 50 animals in just a few days was a huge challenge. Thanks to the cooperation of all authorities, it was possible for us to bring the animals safely out of Gaza. From Israel to Palestine and Jordan, it was impressive to see how these three nations worked together for the animals from Rafah.”
Four Paws said the Rafah Zoo was under international scrutiny from the beginning of 2019 when four lion cubs froze to death due to harsh weather and inadequate housing. At the same time, the owner of the zoo declawed a female lioness so that people visiting her could play with her.
Four Paws circulated a petition to close the zoo, which gained over 150,000 signatures. Khalil said, “The cages were too small for the animals and their children.”
Fathy Jomaa, the zoo owner, blamed Egypt and Israel’s ongoing blockade of Gaza, deteriorating economy for his inability to take care of the animals. Eventually. Jomaa contacted the charity about rescuing the animals to a new, safe location.
Jomaa said, “It is a tough decision, I feel like I am losing my family. I lived with some of those animals for 20 years. I hope they find a better place to live.”
Rafah Zoo has been one of the oldest zoos in Gaza, which opened in 1999. Many animals were affected due to armed conflict and rocket attacks.
Residents have been sad to lose the Rafah Zoo. In 2014 and 2016, Four Paws has rescued animals from two other zoos in Gaza.