FOUR PAWS returns to Gaza, assists the "worst zoo in the world"

Team enters Gaza in response to cry for help from Khan Younis Zoo

BOSTON, April 28, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- International animal welfare organization has responded to a cry of help from a zoo in the south of Gaza, labelled the "worst zoo in the world" in recent media reports.

The emergency relief mission follows FOUR PAWS' operation at damaged Al Bisan Zoo in Gaza in autumn 2014, which led to the rescue of three lions that were successfully transferred to a transit rescue station in Jordan, as well as the provision of aid, food and veterinary care to the animals remaining in the zoo.

The desolate Khan Younis Zoo has been the focus of a growing number of negative reports in the media around the world, leading it to be dubbed the "worst zoo in the world". The zoo has been especially discredited by pictures which have spread showing dead, mummified animals in enclosures next to living ones.

The scene that awaited the FOUR PAWS team when they arrived at the zoo was as horrifying as prior reports would have suggested. The few surviving animals don't have any food, scarcely any fresh water, and have no access to veterinary care. The desolate enclosures are covered with garbage and debris. The zoo is also no longer able to pay the local animal keepers. Zoo Manager Ziyad Oweida: "We are very relieved that FOUR PAWS is helping us now. There has been much media attention, but no one actually came to help us."

FOUR PAWS veterinary surgeon Dr. Amir Khalil, who is leading the mission, said: "The zoo has no financial means whatsoever. The surviving big cats – one lioness and a tiger - are penned up in their destroyed enclosures and are highly emaciated. Many other animals have already starved. We will provide rapid veterinary care and food for the animals for the next three months." Food deliveries will be organized weekly, as the zoo has no fridge or freezer in which to store food.

Dr. Khalil and his team have already treated a baboon and a lama, which is suffering from severe infestation caused by parasites. The lioness, called Lasis, has a severe infection of the ear, has and is has also been treated. The team has also carried out vaccinations of a dog and several cats that live on the premises.

Due to the ongoing conflict in the Gaza strip, exit and entry into the region is extremely difficult. FOUR PAWS is the only animal welfare organization that received official permission to do so by the authorities. The action on site is again supported by French animal welfare organization "30 millions d'amis".

"Animals were smuggled to Gaza"

"Although Gaza is very small, there are around 40 big cats in the area. The trade in smuggling exotic animals is a huge problem. We learned that both big cats in Khan Younis zoo were smuggled as cubs, with much effort, via Egypt – through the underground tunnel system," explains Dr. Khalil, who has already led many emergency actions for animals in the Middle East. During the military conflict last summer, the self-constructed tunnels were destroyed by the Egyptian army.

FOUR PAWS has carried out various projects in the Middle East for some time. In September 2014, FOUR PAWS already undertook an emergency mission in the severely damaged Al Bisan Zoo north of Gaza. Three lions were transferred to a transit station in Jordan.

In Egypt and Jordan, the organization has undertaken joint stray animal care projects with the Princess Alia Foundation. Currently, the two organizations are setting up another joint project in Jordan, a new sanctuary for wild animals called "Al Ma'wa for Nature & Wildlife".

Soon, a variety of wild animals including big cats, rescued from inappropriate or illegal keeping, will find a new species-appropriate home at the sanctuary. More info on Al Ma'wa for Nature & Wildlife can be found here

Picture Link: &p=xVfl8fN1 © FOUR PAWS | 2015 , valid 7 days.

Rough Cut Video: &p=Y2DFR964 © FOUR PAWS | 2015 , valid 7 days.