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Endangered Gaza zoo animals leave for new home in South Africa | Coastweek

AMMAN (Xinhua) -- A turtle from the Gaza zoo is fed upon its arrival at the New Hope Centre, a protection center in Amman, Jordan. A pelican from the Gaza zoo is seen upon its arrival at the New Hope Centre. Fifteen animals left Khan Yunis Zoo in southern Gaza and headed for new homes in Jordan and South Africa on Wednesday. XINHUA PHOTOS - MOHAMMAD ABU GHOSH

Endangered Gaza zoo animals leave for new home in South Africa

by Osama Rady, Omar Othmany GAZA (Xinhua) -- Laziz the tiger and 14 other animals were taken out of the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip on Wednesday by an international animal welfare organization after living in cages for years in the local zoo.

Aboard a truck of Four Paws, which rescues animals in Third World countries, the 15 animals, which also included monkeys, turtles, an emu, porcupines, a pelican, a deer and eagle buzzards, left Khan Yunis Zoo in southern Gaza and headed for new homes in Jordan and South Africa.

This was the third relief mission this year for Four Paws to help animals at the Gaza zoo, where has been suffering a lack of food and medicine and other basic supplies.

It was a sad day for owner Mohammed Oweda, who will close the zoo after the departure of the 15 animals.

"I feel so sad for this, but the lives and safety of the animals are more important than closing my business," Oweda said.

Oweda blamed the closure of Khan Yunis Zoo on the Israeli blockade and the frequent wars between Israel and Hamas, which has been ruling Gaza since 2007.

Dozens of animals died during a 50-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in 2014, while many suffered injuries and mental problems.

Oweda said the majority of the animals in his zoo died and that he suffered an estimated loss of 20,000 U.S. dollars.

The evacuation of the 15 animals has not been easy for the rescuers at Four Paws, which conducted lengthy negotiations with zoo owners over the rescue mission.

A 13-member Four Paws team arrived in Gaza two weeks ago for the operation, and work to catch and load the animals into crates started Tuesday.

"It has been a very long day for the team. We succeeded in spite of the challenges," Amir Khalil, a veterinarian with Four Paws and member of the rescue team, told Xinhua.

Throughout the night, the team guarded the truck with the 15 animals in their crates and monitored their vital signs regularly to make sure they are well.

Most of the animals will find a temporary home in a protection center called New Hope in Jordan.

The only tiger, named Laziz, will be loaded in a new transport crate once in Israel.

By Thursday, Laziz is expected to arrive in Four Paws Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa.

This was Khalil’s sixth visit in Gaza.

"I first came to help animals at Bisan Zoo after the war in 2014 and we transferred three lions to a rescue station in Jordan," he said.

Khalil said his organization’s most recent mission was transferring two lion cubs from Rafah City in Gaza to Jordan last year.

It has not always been possible to move animals out of Gaza, but Four Paws is doing its best to achieve positive solutions for the animals, Khalil said.

Four Paws is now working to get a large piece of land from the Palestinian government in Gaza to build a sanctuary in the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave.

The organization estimates that Gaza is home to hundreds of animals that have been smuggled into the enclave over the past nine years.


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