4.3.2019 – In January 2019, a young lioness had her claws brutally removed with garden shears at Rafah Zoo in the Gaza Strip, causing global outrage. Now the same zoo owner plans to perform the painful surgery on two more lions – if necessary, without a veterinarian. These lions await the same fate as their mutilated sister, to become playthings for zoo visitors. International animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS urges the responsible authorities to intervene before it is too late. 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.
The 14-month-old lioness has been mutilated forever by the brutal and unethical procedure known as ‘declawing’. A similar fate awaits her two siblings with the owner of Rafah Zoo announcing that he will have the claws of all the young lions removed. In a recently published video he states that, in 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. “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 their whole life. 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," says FOUR PAWS veterinarian Dr Amir Khalil, who has extensive experience in such rescue missions, having evacuated two zoos in Gaza in 2014 and 2016.
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). Together with FOUR PAWS, they 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.