A lion cub from a zoo in Gaza in its new home in Amman, July 2015.
(photo credit: MUHAMMAD HAMED / REUTERS)
The owner of a private zoo in the Gaza Strip has advertised for sale three two-month-old lion cubs on social media, claiming he will no longer be able to take care of them as they grow.
Muhammad Ahmad Jumaa wrote in a Facebook post that he was offering the cubs for $5,000 each.
“Because of the bad economic situation and the difficulty of financing food and drink [for his zoo], I was forced to put up for sale three cubs born around a month ago,” he said.
Jumaa added that the money would go toward taking care of the pride of lions he has in the zoo – two males and three females – as well as the other animals there.
In an interview with AFP on Saturday, he said he hopes the money will prevent the closure of his zoo, which is located in Rafah, bordering on Egypt.
“We need $290 to $430 a day to feed the animals at the zoo,” he said, adding that he has owned the zoo for 23 years. “We have a male and female lion who had cubs and their first litter died, this is their second litter. One of the four cubs died and now there are three left.”
Jumaa named the cubs Palestine, al-Quds – “as a tribute to al-Quds [Jerusalem in Arabic]” – and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in honor of the Turkish president.
He said that tourism in the Gaza Strip was basically nonexistent, which has placed the zoo in dire straits.
Although many people were interested in the lion cubs, Jumaa said none of the offers he received were serious, adding that potential buyers shared his concerns about caring for the animals.
In pictures and a video that emerged of the zoo, children are seen holding and patting the three small cubs, as well as playing with them while riding on a merry-go-round.
In August 2016, animal welfare NGO Four Paws rescued 15 animals from zoo in Khan Yunis, not far from Rafah, which was dubbed “the worst in the world” after it was found many of its animals had starved to death.
A tiger, an emu, a pelican, two tortoises, two birds, a deer, five monkeys and two porcupines were among those rescued, which was done in conjunction between the Israeli and Palestinian Authority governments. The animals found new homes in South Africa, Jordan and Israel.
The zoo was closed down by Four Paws soon after the rescue mission.
Since 2008, there have been several attempts to smuggle in animals and rare birds into Gaza from Egypt and Israel, including a tiger, peacocks and crocodiles.
After some of the successful smuggling operations, the owners or zookeepers in Gaza were unable to take proper care of the animals, and they either died or had to be saved by animal rights groups.
Most recently, in February this year, a 44-year-old man from Gaza City was arrested at the Erez crossing to Israel while trying to smuggle 30 rare songbirds out of Gaza and to east Jerusalem to sell for thousands of shekels.