Soldiers rescue gazelle in Hebron

Four-year-old male arrives in overall good health at Tisch Family Zoological Gardens.

gazelle 88 (photo credit: )
gazelle 88
(photo credit: )
A gazelle rescued by paratroopers from a possibly deadly fate in Hebron was delivered on Tuesday to the safety of The Tisch Family Zoological Gardens in Jerusalem. Soldiers from Battalion 101 of the Paratrooper Brigade found the gazelle in the yard of a Palestinian home and contacted the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Hebron Police, according to an army official. Soldiers returned with a ranger early Tuesday to rescue the approximately 11-kg. animal, and police arrested the man living in the house, as it is illegal to keep such animals captive at private homes. The gazelle was put in an armored Israeli jeep, said the ranger, Aviam Eter. "Those who discovered it were the soldiers from the 101 unit who were on a routine patrol," Eter told Israel Radio. "We went into the house and took the gazelle." According to army officials, Palestinians capture young deer and gazelles in the Hebron hills. The animals are then raised until they are large enough to slaughter. The rescued male gazelle, assumed to be about four years old, arrived at the zoo slightly shocked, but calm and in overall good health, said head zookeeper Yehuda Agus. The gazelle was described as clean, handsome and strong. Although his future will never include running through the Hebron hills again, zoo officials are working to reintroduce the gazelle into a more natural environment than the Hebron house. The gazelle has a good chance of remaining at the zoo, which has a nice yard for Israeli herbivores. "It's already adapted to people, so we cannot liberate it into nature," said Amnon Nachmias, spokesperson for Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Within a few weeks, zookeepers will observe his reaction to other gazelles, first through a barrier, and then he will be released among them. "I don't know his temper yet... but if it becomes too ugly, we [will] put him back," Agus explained. Because of a zookeeper superstition that bad luck arises from naming animals too soon, Agus remained tight-lipped about the future name of the gazelle. "I know what he will be named, but I can't say because it's bad luck," he said. "We know when the time is right. Until then, we call him 'him' or 'the gazelle from the wild.'" Both Nachmias and Agus warn people not to touch animals or take them out of the wild. They encourage people to call the Nature and Parks Authority to deal with problems involving wild animals. Nachmias said he last rescued a gazelle from a house in a northern Israeli village. When its captors first found the gazelle in the wild they planned to slaughter it, he said, but they grew attached to the animal and it turned into a pet. Nachmias said someone had tipped him off that the gazelle was in the house. Charges will be brought in the next few days against the arrested man for holding an animal illegally, said Micki Rosenfeld, a police spokesman. In the meantime, he is being held by the Hebron Police. AP contributed to this report.