Gaza's 'horror' zoo: 40 animals to be evacuated

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A declawed lion is seen at the zoo. (Four Paws)
A declawed lion is seen at the zoo. (Four Paws)

Forty abused animals are to be rescued from a notorious zoo in war-torn Gaza at the end of March, after weeks of "arduous negotiations".

International animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS will transport the animals from Gaza to Jordan, where they will be accommodated in sanctuaries. 

The animals include five lions, a hyena, various monkeys, wolves, porcupines, foxes, cats and dogs.

Gaza's oldest zoo Rafah attracted worldwide media attention after video footage emerged of "unimaginably dreadful conditions" in which the animals lived.

The video, seen by FOUR PAWS, unveiled the horrendous scenes of four freezing lion cubs and garden shears used to declaw a lioness.

"The owner of the zoo announced that he would also remove the claws of her brothers – if necessary, without the help of a veterinarian. He also claimed to have amputated the leg of an injured fox himself with a circular saw," Fiona Miles, director of FOUR PAWS in South Africa, said in the statement. 

The organisation's head of mission, Dr Amir Khalil, said in a statement it would be their biggest mission to date, and would require his team to be fit mentally and physically.

"We are happy to finally put an end to this horror. For far too long, the animals of Rafah Zoo have had to live under unimaginably dreadful conditions. 

However, there's another barrier to entry, literally. This, due to the military action currently unfolding in the region.

As a result, the organisation said it was consulting with experts in the field of security before embarking on the rescue mission. 

Israel's army has also closed down all border crossings to Gaza due to the military escalation in Gaza, the organisation said. 

ALSO READ: Israel hits targets across Gaza after rocket attack

Miles said that "the team attempted to enter Gaza earlier today but were not allowed due to the imposed restrictions. Our team is on standby in Amman and as soon as the checkpoints are open, we will make another attempt to enter".

The Rafah Zoo opened on the Egyptian border in 1999, according to Four Paws. From there, "wild animals are repeatedly smuggled through underground tunnels to and from Gaza. Many of the animals have died in rocket attacks and war battles since the opening of the zoo. Some of them are still stuffed and on display at Rafah Zoo".

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