BOSTON – March 4 2019 – Just two months ago, a young lioness had her claws brutally removed with garden shears at Rafah Zoo on the Gaza Strip. The amateur procedure was performed outside on a dirt floor in front of young children and video recorded. The video is now going viral causing global outrage.
FOUR PAWS has been informed that the same zoo owner plans to perform the painful surgery on two more lions. These lions that await the same fate are to be used as playthings for zoo visitors.
FOUR PAWS is in negotiations with this zoo owner as the international animal welfare organization has rescued animals from this facility before. More than 120,000 people worldwide have signed the FOUR PAWS petition demanding the closure of the zoo and the relocation of over 40 suffering animals to sanctuaries in the region.FOUR PAWS also urges authorities to intervene and close the zoo for good.
The 14-month-old lioness that was declawed has two siblings at the zoo. The owner, in a recently published video, announced that he will have the claws of all the young lions removed AND, in the case a veterinarian is not available, he will perform the surgery himself.
The zoo owner also claims to have amputated an injured fox’s leg with a circular saw. Dr. Amir Khalil, FOUR PAWS Director of Project Development and veterinarian, has extensive experience in such rescue missions, having evacuated two zoos in Gaza in 2014 and 2016. He responded to the Zoo owner’s video stating, “The recent statements of the zoo owner are beyond horrific. Obviously, there is absolutely no understanding for species-appropriate keeping and animal welfare. His past and planned procedures are nothing but cruel mutilations under which the animals will suffer for their whole lives. We urge the authorities to take action before more animals have to endure any sort of painful torture. We are ready for a rescue mission anytime if the zoo owner and the authorities in Gaza agree to close the zoo permanently."
Over 120,000 supporters for closure of infamous Rafah Zoo
FOUR PAWS has launched a petition for the rescue of all animals at Rafah Zoo, which has already been signed by over 120,000 people worldwide (https://help.four-paws.org/en/shut-down-rafah-zoo-gaza). Signers from around the globe call for the final closure of the infamous zoo, which has regularly been making shocking headlines since the beginning of the year. In mid-January, four lion cubs froze to death. Only a few weeks later the shocking pictures of the mutilated lioness appeared.
Poor keeping conditions as well as lack of food and medical care have left their mark on the animals at Rafah zoo. FOUR PAWS has been closely monitoring the situation for the past year. In 2018, a FOUR PAWS veterinarian team provided vaccinations and first aid to the animals.
Over 40 suffering animals in Gaza's oldest zoo
Currently, over 40 animals – including five lions, a hyena, several monkeys, wolves, porcupines, foxes, cats and dogs – live in tiny and desolate cages at Rafah Zoo. Gaza's oldest zoo opened in 1999 on the Egyptian border. From there, wild animals are repeatedly smuggled through underground tunnels to and from Gaza. Since the opening of the zoo, many animals have already died due to rocket attacks and war battles. Some of them have even been stuffed and are still on display.
FOUR PAWS: Numerous rescue missions in Gaza
FOUR PAWS has been active in Gaza since 2014 and has already evacuated and closed down two zoos – Al-Bisan zoo and Khan Younis zoo – in the region. The former zoo inhabitants were transferred to FOUR PAWS' own sanctuaries. The zoo in Rafah is well known to the international animal welfare organisation. In 2015 the owner of the zoo sold the two lion cubs Max and Mona to a local citizen, who gave them to his grandchildren as a gift. Photos of the two lions in the middle of a refugee camp went around the world, shocking the global community. FOUR PAWS confiscated the cubs and brought them to its sanctuary in Jordan, where they are now thriving in species-appropriate care.