Gaza zoo animals evacuated to Jordan

Animals moved from Rafah Zoo in the Gaza Strip by welfare group Four Paws, April 2019Image copyright

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The animals were sedated before they were removed from the zoo

More than 40 animals have been moved out of “terrible conditions” in a Gaza Strip zoo to a reserve in Jordan, a welfare group has announced.

Four Paws say they have taken the animals from Rafah Zoo near the border with Egypt.

Lions, monkeys, peacocks and porcupines were among the 47 creatures rescued.

They were sedated for the journey 300 kilometres (190 miles) through Israel, which gave its permission for the transfer.

Four Paws vet Amir Khalil told the BBC the cages had become too small to house the animals.

Only birds were left behind at the zoo by the group. Two of the lions saved will eventually be moved to South Africa.

Rafah Zoo was opened in 1999. Four Paws drew fresh attention to the suffering of its animals earlier this year when a lioness had its claws removed with garden shears so visitors could play with her.

Animal rights groups have strongly condemned the zoo’s owner Fathy Jomaa for the treatment of the animals. Four lion cubs died at the zoo earlier this year, and Mr Jomaa contacted Four Paws to help move the creatures.

Mr Jomaa has blamed the Israeli blockade of the enclave and the poor economy for the squalid conditions in the zoo.

“When we raise a cat for a week or a month we feel sad to lose it but what about suddenly losing animals that I have lived with for 20 years?” he told the BBC.

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Four Paws said they moved 47 animals from Rafah zoo

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Monkeys, lions, wolves and porcupines were among the creatures relocated to Jordan

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Israel’s government approved and aided the transfer

Residents were also sad to see the animals leave.

“The zoo is the only place where we could go for a break,” Husam Sabawei told the BBC. “It was the only place for entertaining our children.”

Israel’s Land Crossing Authority chief said in a statement the country had “used every means at our disposal to help transfer the animals as quickly as possible”.

Gaza is under the control of the Palestinian Authority, and between 2007 and 2014 was ruled by the militant Islamist group Hamas. They won Palestinian legislative elections in 2006 but then had a violent rift with the rival Fatah faction.

When Hamas took over in Gaza, Israel swiftly imposed a blockade on the territory, restricting the movement of goods and people in and out. Egypt meanwhile blockaded Gaza’s southern border.

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