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The story of Max and Mona: Lion cubs rescued from Gaza

Update: 07-06-2015 - Finally a species-appropriate home for the two lion cubs. Read our PRESS RELEASE here.


After months of living in poor conditions, the two lion cubs could finally move into their new species-appropriate home in Jordan. Although the past days have been incredibly challenging, we are elated that we could finally fulfill our mission and rescue these two lions. 


Pictures will follow soon! 

© FOUR PAWS l Tom Benda


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 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 for the lions. Keep your fingers crossed for our mission that all goes well! Despite a bad internet connection in Gaza we will try to keep you updated

© FOUR PAWS l Tom Benda

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

June 22, 2015 - Photos of the lion cubs in the middle of the refugee camp in the Gaza Strip went around the world: in March, a father of six bought the cubs – then just two months old – from the 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 restrictions and access regulations, along with dealing with the cubs’ owner, have proved very challenging for the FOUR PAWS team.

© FOUR PAWS | 2015

© FOUR PAWS | 2015

In the beginning phase for a new rescue operation in Gaza

FOUR PAWS is confident that it will soon get the go-ahead to step in to the Gaza Strip. A team of vets and logistics staff will soon travel to Rafah to rescue the two lion cubs from this irresponsible private keeping. The big cats are now five months old, and they’re living with the family – which includes small children – under one roof! That’s why we want to get them out of there as quickly as we can, not least for the people’s 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.

Once there, the team will negotiate with the owner and appeal to his common sense. As soon as the lions are handed over to FOUR PAWS they will be transferred to the New Hope Center, the transit station of the Al Ma’wa for Nature and Wildlife sanctuary in Jordan.


Although Gaza is small, there are around 40 big cats there as of June 2015. Smuggling of exotic animals is a major problem here. Even Mona and Max’s parents are said to have been smuggled to the Rafah Zoo as cubs, by underground tunnels from Egypt into Gaza. However, military conflict last year resulted in the Egyptian army destroying 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 of the region 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 Middle East: in September 2014, the organization 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 Jordan. In April 2015, a FOUR PAWS emergency team carried out a relief operation to provide medical treatment and food to the starving animals in the run-down Khan Younis Zoo, located in the south of Gaza.


We very much hope that the current owner sees sense, and lets us take the lions. They should be given a beautiful, safe home – and not be sold on to another zoo in the area!

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

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