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FOUR PAWS begins bold rescue mission in Syria

First group of suffering animals evacuated from a zoo near Aleppo


BOSTON - JULY 21, 2017 - The international animal welfare organization FOUR PAWS has once again launched a high-risk rescue operation in the Middle East. In collaboration with security experts, nine abandoned animals were evacuated from the amusement park "Magic World" located in the crisis area near Aleppo. Despite intense battles in Syria for the past couple of days, the truck with starving and suffering tigers, bears, lions and hyenas managed to reach the Syria-Turkey border. From there, the animals have started their journey to an animal rescue center in Karacabey, close to the city of Bursa, where they will temporarily stay to receive proper medical treatment. More wild animals are still trapped in the destroyed zoo and are expected to arrive at the border in the coming days.


After their successful operation in Mosul, Iraq three months ago, the international animal welfare organization FOUR PAWS has started its next mission in a warzone. This time the lives of several animals, including three lions (one female and two males), two tigers (one female and one male), two Asian black bears (one female and one male) and two hyenas (one female and one male), from a neglected zoo near Aleppo, Syria are at risk.


"The ongoing war has taken its toll on the animals. The lack of water, food, and veterinary care has left the animals physically and psychologically traumatized. Several animals were killed by severe bombings. There was no way for them to escape from this deadly trap,” commented FOUR PAWS veterinarian and head of mission Dr. Amir Khalil. “The ever-deteriorating situation of the animals worried us. With our mission, we want to spread the message that humanity cannot be divided and that these suffering animals deserve to be heard and seen. Also, wild animals, such as bears and big cats, trapped in desolate enclosures can quickly pose a threat to humans.”


Collaboration with experienced security experts on site

Due to ongoing battles, operating in Syria is extremely dangerous. In the last days, intense fighting and clashes took place around Aleppo, Idlib and Afrin. While planning the mission, FOUR PAWS collaborated with international security experts familiar with the region to ensure the team’s safety.


With the permission of the zoo owner, who had fled to the United States five years ago, the security team entered the zoo with local veterinarians. The animals were loaded into cages on the transport trucks and taken to the Syria-Turkey border to meet the FOUR PAWS rescue team. "The safety of the people on the ground, our team, and the animals are the main priority. That is why we trust in the expertise of international safety advisors. We are glad that the first animals have been taken out of the zoo and transferred to a safer area,” stated Dr. Khalil.


Despite the nine animals who made it safely to the border, more animals are still trapped in the amusement park "Magic World." Depending on the development of the difficult situation around Aleppo, FOUR PAWS expects the remaining animals to arrive at the border in the upcoming days.


A better future for the nameless animals

The first rescued animals are exhausted and dehydrated. Some of them suffer from minor wounds but there are no serious injuries. The FOUR PAWS team provided them with water and immediately, the animals began to feel better. They have started their journey, which has been supported by Turkish animal welfare activists, to an animal protection center in Karacabey close to the city of Bursa. As soon as all the animals have arrived, FOUR PAWS will start medical treatment.


Once the animals’ health conditions allow the former zoo animals will be transferred to new, species-appropriate homes. The exact location depends on the state of the animals. Dr. Amir Khalil, who had evacuated an entire zoo in Gaza in 2016 and has recently rescued a lion and a bear from a zoo in Mosul, shared, "FOUR PAWS has its own high-standard animal rescue centers in locations such as Jordan, South Africa and the Netherlands. They are all possible options. First, we must observe the health development of the saved animals. Only then can we decide which place is right."


Financial aid from a major American donor

American journalist Eric Margolis financially supports FOUR PAWS’ challenging rescue mission. The journalist and businessman has been actively promoting animal protection for decades. "War affects the most innocent: children, women, and families all trying to escape from the horrors. These animals, however, are locked in barren cages and surrounded by daily bombings and gunfire. They have nowhere to run. Their survival depends on this rescue,” explains Margolis.


FOUR PAWS has set up a donation page where animal lovers from all over the world can go to help provide a better future for the animals from Aleppo. Please go to to show your support!


Regular updates about the mission can be found on the following FOUR PAWS social media channels: