Israel is sending a ship to Turkey on Monday with a large and noisy cargo on
board. This shipment is part of a decades-long struggle, but one against nature:
it aims to calm ties between the two countries while simultaneously saving Asian
pachyderms from extinction.
The cargo consists of three elephants,
zebras, a hippo and a handful of lemurs, courtesy of the Tisch Family Zoological
Gardens in Jerusalem – commonly known as the Biblical Zoo – and the Ramat Gan
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The destination: the Gaziantep Zoo in southeastern Anatolia,
which is Turkey’s largest zoo.
Gaby the elephant spent his last day in
Jerusalem on Sunday, and was sent to Haifa on Sunday night, where he will board
a ship bound for Turkey with the other animals. It will take about a day for the
animals to dock in Turkey, where they will travel overland to Gaziantep, not far
from the Syrian border.
Gaby was born at the Biblical Zoo in 2005, a
bouncing 45 kg. boy. He was the first elephant to be born in Israel using
artificial insemination, which was a huge success for the zoo.
Yedvad, the zoo’s head curator, who raised Gaby from the day he was born, said
it was hard to part from the animal he had worked so hard to raise.
becoming more mature and we needed to find a different place for him,” he
Male adult elephants are difficult to keep in captivity because
they are very aggressive.
“It’s hard, but we know he’s going to a place
where they will take care of him and where he’s wanted,” Yedvad
Gaby’s trainers at the Biblical Zoo hope that he will be able to
start his own family in Turkey, increasing the number of Asian elephants in
captivity. The three elephants from Jerusalem and Ramat Gan will be the first
elephants at the Turkish zoo.
“There’s no connection to
At the end of the day, everyone wants them to be in a good
place,” Yedvad said. “It’s very easy to take this in the direction of a new
flotilla to Turkey, but we’re not working government to government, we’re
working zoo to zoo. Happily, everyone is working together for the good of the
animals, and all the politics are just not relevant.”
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