December 4 2019 – FOUR PAWS conducted an emergency mission starting on November 29th to care for several animals kept in two zoos in the south of Lebanon. Due to the ongoing instability in the country, both privately owned zoos lack the resources to take care of their suffering animals.
After the approval from the authorities, the FOUR PAWS team, consisting of wildlife veterinarians and animal keepers, travelled to Lebanon to support the two zoos with medical treatments and appropriate food. FOUR PAWS is currently working on a long-term solution for the animals.
The help of FOUR PAWS’ rescue team arrived just in time for the wild animals, such as Syrian brown bears, lions and hyenas. Due to the precarious situation in Lebanon, there is currently no funding available for urgently needed medicines and food. Therefore, the local animal welfare organisation Animals Lebanon have asked FOUR PAWS for support.
“Both the zoos and animals are in a terrible state. The lack of staff, food, water and proper keeping conditions has taken its toll on the animals. They urgently need our help. At the moment, we cannot say anything about a potential rescue, but we are working with our partner Animals Lebanon on a solution to transfer them to a more species-appropriate place”,
-Amir Khalil, FOUR PAWS veterinarian and head of the emergency mission, who has already rescued more than 60 zoo animals from Syria, Iraq and the Gaza Strip.
No species-appropriate keeping conditions
The animals of the two Lebanese zoos visited by FOUR PAWS are trapped in tiny cages, some of them are smaller than a ping-pong table. The bears have no water, the lions get no enrichment and were declawed (an especially brutal procedure). One of the hyenas had her teeth broken when she was caught from the wild. She lies lethargically on the dirty floor of her cage and urgently needs medical care.
Illegal trade in Lebanon
The illegal trade of endangered species is a major business worldwide. In Lebanon, the majority of the wild animals in captivity comes either directly from the wild or illegal trade, mostly smuggled from Syria. Since 2017 a law in Lebanon only allows the keeping of wild animals in zoos or rescue centers that have a license, which is not the case for the two zoos assessed by FOUR PAWS. Additionally, there is a lack of proactive law enforcement.
A total of six zoos in Lebanon
There are currently six zoos in Lebanon, all of which are privately run and open to the public. According to research by the local animal welfare organization, Animals Lebanon, these zoos keep in total around 30 big cats, 8 bears, 30 primates, almost 50 reptiles and 60 large birds. The conditions in the zoos are, for the most part, not species-appropriate. Many of the animals live in small, barren enclosures and display behavioural disorders. Due to malnutrition and lack of medical care, the zoo animals suffer severe health problems.