(BEIT LAHIYA, Gaza Strip) — A trio of scrawny lions was brought into Israel from Gaza on Tuesday en route to a better life at a wildlife sanctuary in Jordan after their zoo was damaged in the recent Israel-Hamas war.
The three, a pair of males and a pregnant female, were sedated at Al-Bisan zoo in Beit Lahiya before the big cats were placed in metal cages and loaded onto a truck that transferred them through the Erez border crossing into Israel.
Amir Khalil of the Four Paws International welfare group said the zoo’s animals were in urgent need of care after the 50-day war. He said the zoo was badly damaged and more than 80 animals died as a result of the fighting.
Al-Bisan is one of five makeshift zoos in Gaza that have spotty animal welfare records.
Most of the zoo animals in Gaza have been hauled into the isolated territory through smuggling tunnels linking the territory to Egypt. In one famous scene captured on film, Gazans used a crane to lift a camel over the border fence by one of its legs as the animal writhed in agony.
Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade on Gaza since 2007, when the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power there.
Last year a pair of newborn lion cubs died shortly after they were proudly unveiled by Gaza’s Hamas rulers.
Gaza’s main zoo once turned to improvised taxidermy to keep its deceased animals on exhibit while another painted stripes on donkeys to try and make them look like zebras.