FOUR PAWS rescues two lion cubs from Gaza refugee camp
Update, 2015-07-06 - Finally a species-appropriate home for the two lion cubs
After months under poor conditions the two lions can finally move into their new species-appropriate habitat in Jordan. Although this has been one of the most challenging FOUR PAWS' missions ever, we are elated that we have finally managed to rescue these two lions.
Pictures will follow soon!
Update - 05.07.2015: We are on our way to Jordan
Our mission is nearing completion! Our team, together with the two lion cubs, have finally received permission to leave Gaza. We are now on the way to Jordan, where the two lions will move into their new species-appropriate home.
Update - 2015-07-05: 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 is that the rescue action has been successful!
The cubs are officially in our care. However, the mission is not yet complete. Our team (as well as the cubs) are unfortunately still stuck in Gaza at the border waiting to leave. We are now trying to do what we can to ensure the whole team can complete the journey to the lions' safe new home in Jordan. Keep your fingers crossed that all goes well. Despite a bad internet connection in Gaza we will try to keep you updated.
Cubs have become a significant danger for people in the Rafah camp
FOUR PAWS has launched an emergency mission to rescue two lion cubs living in a refugee camp in the Gaza strip, which the charity says now pose a significant threat to people in the camp.
The lion cubs, which have been named Mona and Max, made headlines earlier this year, after they were bought from Rafah Zoo in Gaza by a local man as a “treat” for his grandchildren. Photos of the two cubs – then just two months old – circulated across international media and the internet, showing the somewhat surreal situation of the lions in the middle of a refugee camp in Gaza, being petted by the small children.
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. A combination of the strict travel and access regulations into Gaza and ongoing negotiations with the cubs’ owner, have been proving very challenging for the FOUR PAWS team.
Dr Khalil commented: “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 safety of the people living with them. Both cubs have already grown quite a bit bigger and stronger since their arrival to the refugee camp, and they now represent a significant danger for the inhabitants of the camp.”
At the starting blocks of a new operation in Gaza
FOUR PAWS is confident that it will soon get the go-ahead to enter the Gaza Strip. A team of vets and logistics staff will then travel to Rafah to rescue the two cubs from this hugely inappropriate situation.
Once there, the team will continue negotiations 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 Al Ma’wa Wildlife Sanctuary in Jordan.
Although Gaza is small, there are around 40 big cats there. Smuggling of exotic animals is a major problem. Even Mona and Max’s parents are said to have been smuggled to Rafah Zoo as cubs, by underground tunnels from Egypt into Gaza. However, military conflict last year saw the Egyptian army destroy many of the tunnels.
Travel formalities hold up rescue operations
The continuing conflict in the Gaza Strip makes travel in and out extremely difficult. For some time now, FOUR PAWS has been seeking official permission for the rescue. This is not FOUR PAWS’ first operation in Gaza. In September 2014, the organisation 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 this year, the team returned to carry out a relief operation to provide medical treatment and food to the animals in the run-down Khan Younis Zoo.
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.