8.4.2019 – After several attempts, international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS has succeeded in its biggest coup to date: On 7th April 2019, the rescue team transferred 47 zoo animals out of the Gaza Strip. The animals – including five lions, a hyena, several monkeys, wolves, porcupines, foxes, cats, dogs, emus, ostriches and squirrels – come from a neglected zoo in Rafah in the south of Gaza. The rescue mission was originally scheduled for the end of March but had to be postponed due to ongoing unrest in the region. FOUR PAWS brought most of the animals to Jordanian wildlife sanctuaries with two of the lions to fly on to South Africa today, 8th April. There they will live in species-appropriate enclosures in the FOUR PAWS big cat refuge LIONSROCK, receiving specialist veterinary care.
FOUR PAWS' largest rescue mission was preceded by several months of preparations and negotiations. Thanks to the support of all the authorities involved and the owner of the zoo, the mission has now been successfully completed. The FOUR PAWS team, consisting of veterinarians and wildlife experts, arrived in the Gaza Strip on 4th April, spending almost four days on site to conclude final negotiations, and prepare the logistics of such a large transfere zoos left in the Gaza Strip.
“The intensive work of the last weeks has brought our team to its limits. To examine and load almost 50 animals in just a few days was a huge challenge. Thanks to the cooperation of all authorities, it was possible for us to bring the animals safely out of Gaza. From Israel to Palestine and Jordan, it was impressive to see how these three nations worked together for the animals from Rafah,"
says FOUR PAWS veterinarian and Head of Mission Amir Khalil, who already evacuated two zoos in Gaza in 2014 and 2016.
From Gaza via Israel to Jordan and South Africa
After FOUR PAWS had loaded the animals into their transport crates on 6th April, the almost 300-kilometre journey to Jordan started early in the morning on 7th April. Another logistical challenge awaited the FOUR PAWS team at the Erez border crossing to Israel. Since the vehicles had to be changed, all crates were unloaded and loaded onto a new truck in the Israel-Gaza barrier. Flanked by the Israeli army, the journey to the Jordanian border continued. In the late evening, FOUR PAWS arrived with the animals at the wildlife sanctuaries, about one hour away from Amman. In the course of today the animals will be released into their new, species-appropriate enclosures. For the two older lions, however, the journey is not over yet. Today they fly on to South Africa, where they will find their final home in the FOUR PAWS big cat refuge LIONSROCK.
International collaboration for the zoo animals from Rafah
In addition to working closely with the local authorities, the American journalist and businessman Eric S. Margolis and the French animal welfare organisation “Fondation 30 Millions d'Amis” supported the latest FOUR PAWS rescue mission with generous donations. 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. After the rescue of the Rafah zoo animals, there are only two more zoos left in the Gaza Strip.
FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org.za