A lion sits in a small and delapitated cage at the Rafah Zoo in the Gaza Strip.
(photo credit: FOUR PAWS)
As the owner of Rafah Zoo in Gaza plans to declaw more lions, international animal welfare organization Four Paws has called on local authorities to put an end to this "cruel torture."
In January, a young lioness named Falestine had her claws brutally removed with garden shears at Rafah Zoo in the Gaza Strip so that "visitors and children to the zoo could play with her," said the vet, Fayez al-Haddad, who had operated on her.
The action sparked global outrage with numerous animal rights condemning the act.
"Now the same zoo owner plans to perform the painful surgery on two more lions – if necessary, without a veterinarian," Four Paws said in a statement on Tuesday. "These lions await the same fate as their mutilated sister, to become playthings for zoo visitors."
The organization urged "the responsible authorities" to intervene before it is too late. A Four Paws petition demanding the closure of the zoo and the relocation of over "40 suffering animals" to sanctuaries in the region has been signed by more than 120,000 people worldwide. 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 and just a few weeks later the shocking pictures of the mutilated lioness appeared.
"The 14-month-old lioness [declawed in January] has been mutilated forever by the brutal and unethical procedure known as ‘declawing,’" Four Paws explained. "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 the owner stated 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."
Four Paws veterinarian Dr Amir Khalil, who has extensive experience in such rescue missions, having evacuated two zoos in Gaza in 2014 and 2016 said that the recent statements of the zoo owner "are beyond horrific."
"Obviously, there is absolutely no understanding for species-appropriate keeping and animal welfare," he explained. "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."
Khalil, who has extensive experience in such rescue missions, having evacuated two zoos in Gaza in 2014 and 2016 added the organization is "ready for a rescue mission anytime if the zoo owner and the authorities in Gaza agree to close the zoo permanently."
The organization also said that the zoo has poor keeping conditions as well as lack of food and medical care, which has left its mark on the animals at Rafah zoo.
Moreover, it said that over 40 animals – including five lions, a hyena, several monkeys, wolves, porcupines, foxes, cats and dogs – live in tiny and desolate cages at the zoo. Rafah Zoo is the Strip's oldest zoo, and it opened in 1999 on the Egyptian border.
"From there, wild animals are repeatedly smuggled through underground tunnels to and from Gaza," Four Paws said. "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."
Meanwhile, the organization has been active in Gaza since 2014 and has already evacuated and closed down two zoos in the Strip – Al-Bisan Zoo and Khan Younis Zoo. The former zoo inhabitants were transferred to Four Paws' own sanctuaries.
In 2015, the owner of the Rafah Zoo sold 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 viral across the world, leaving the global community shocked. Four Paws confiscated the cubs and brought them to its sanctuary in Jordan, "where they are now thriving in species-appropriate care."
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