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Escalation in Gaza: FOUR PAWS must postpone rescue mission

29.3.2019

Over 40 zoo animals will be evacuated once the situation is safe for the rescue team

29.3.2019 – Due to the ongoing unrest in the Gaza Strip, international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS must postpone its scheduled rescue mission. The original plan was to evacuate over 40 animals from the neglected Rafah Zoo and place them in sanctuaries in Jordan and South Africa. FOUR PAWS has tried to enter Gaza several times since Monday 25 March, but all borders have been closed due to violent escalations. The rescue mission will be resumed once the situation on-site has improved. In the meantime, locals inside Gaza borders are supporting FOUR PAWS by feeding the animals.

The over 40 animals – including five lions, a hyena, several monkeys, wolves, porcupines, foxes, cats, dogs, emus and ostriches – from Rafah Zoo remain the focus of FOUR PAWS' largest animal rescue mission. The rescue team, consisting of veterinarians and wildlife experts, was already on its way to Gaza on Monday to start preparations for the evacuation. However, the escalating unrest in the region thwarted this plan. “Due to the closed borders, it was impossible for our team to enter Gaza. However, we are keeping an eye on the situation and the rescue will take place once the security situation has stabilised. We remain on standby and are ready to go through with the rescue at any time. No matter how long we have to wait, we will not give up on the animals of Rafah Zoo", says FOUR PAWS veterinarian and Head of Mission Dr Amir Khalil, who has already evacuated and closed down two zoos in Gaza in 2014 and 2016.

Rafah Zoo: Mutilated lioness, stuffed animals and frozen lion cubs

In the beginning of 2019 Rafah Zoo attracted worldwide attention and condemnation. Due to the harsh weather and the poor keeping conditions, four lion cubs froze to death within the zoo. Only a few weeks later, a 14-month-old lioness was forever mutilated by the brutal and unprofessional removal of her claws. Gaza's oldest zoo was opened on the Egyptian border in 1999. From there, wild animals are repeatedly smuggled into and out of Gaza through underground tunnels. Many of the animals have been killed in rocket attacks and war battles since the opening of the zoo. Some of them are still stuffed and on display at Rafah Zoo.

FOUR PAWS: Numerous rescue missions in Gaza

FOUR PAWS has been active in Gaza since 2014 and has already evacuated and closed two zoos – Al-Bisan Zoo and Khan Younis Zoo – in the region. The zoo in Rafah is also no stranger to the international animal welfare organisation. In 2015, the zoo owner sold the two lion cubs Max and Mona to a local who gave them to his grandchildren. Photos of the two lions in the middle of a refugee camp went around the world. FOUR PAWS confiscated the animals and brought them to Jordan. Most of the former inhabitants of Rafah Zoo will also be accommodated there in the wildlife rescue centre “Al Ma'wa for Nature and Wildlife” – a joint project of FOUR PAWS and the Princess Alia Foundation. Two lions will be transported to the FOUR PAWS big cat sanctuary LIONSROCK in South Africa. The rescue of the animals is financially supported by a generous donation from the American journalist and businessman Eric S. Margolis.

"Due to the closed borders, it was impossible for our team to enter Gaza. However, we are keeping an eye on the situation and the rescue will take place once the security situation has stabilised. We remain on standby and are ready to go through with the rescue at any time. No matter how long we have to wait, we will not give up on the animals of Rafah Zoo"

says FOUR PAWS veterinarian and Head of Mission Dr Amir Khalil, who has already evacuated and closed down two zoos in Gaza in 2014 and 2016.

Rafah Zoo: Mutilated lioness, stuffed animals and frozen lion cubs

In the beginning of 2019 Rafah Zoo attracted worldwide attention and condemnation. Due to the harsh weather and the poor keeping conditions, four lion cubs froze to death within the zoo. Only a few weeks later, a 14-month-old lioness was forever mutilated by the brutal and unprofessional removal of her claws. Gaza's oldest zoo was opened on the Egyptian border in 1999. From there, wild animals are repeatedly smuggled into and out of Gaza through underground tunnels. Many of the animals have been killed in rocket attacks and war battles since the opening of the zoo. Some of them are still stuffed and on display at Rafah Zoo.

FOUR PAWS: Numerous rescue missions in Gaza

FOUR PAWS has been active in Gaza since 2014 and has already evacuated and closed two zoos – Al-Bisan Zoo and Khan Younis Zoo – in the region. The zoo in Rafah is also no stranger to the international animal welfare organisation. In 2015, the zoo owner sold the two lion cubs Max and Mona to a local who gave them to his grandchildren. Photos of the two lions in the middle of a refugee camp went around the world. FOUR PAWS confiscated the animals and brought them to Jordan. Most of the former inhabitants of Rafah Zoo will also be accommodated there in the wildlife rescue centre “Al Ma'wa for Nature and Wildlife” – a joint project of FOUR PAWS and the Princess Alia Foundation. Two lions will be transported to the FOUR PAWS big cat sanctuary LIONSROCK in South Africa. The rescue of the animals is financially supported by a generous donation from the American journalist and businessman Eric S. Margolis.

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Press contact

Martin Bauer

FOUR PAWS Head of Public Relations International

martin.bauer@four-paws.org

+43-1-545 50 20-63

+43-664 128 17 07

Linke Wienzeile 236
1150 Vienna
Austria

FOUR PAWS International

FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects focus on stray dogs and cats as well as pets, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, orangutans and elephants – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, Hungary, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for distressed animals in twelve countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org