Forty animals, including five lions, are to be rescued from squalid conditions in the Gaza Strip, an animal welfare group said on Wednesday.
The animals would be taken out of a zoo in the Palestinian enclave and relocated to sanctuaries in Jordan next week, the Four Paws organisation said. Among the other animals to be taken out were a hyena, monkeys, wolves and porcupines, the organisation said in a statement.
The owner of the Rafah Zoo in southern Gaza was not immediately available for comment.
The zoo hit the headlines last month when the cash-strapped owner revealed he had declawed one of the lions there, so that customers could play with her for money.
The organisation condemned the declawing, with almost 1,50,000 people signing a petition against the treatment.
The animals would be treated and sedated, before being taken through Israel into Jordan, Four Paws said. “For far too long, the animals of Rafah Zoo have had to live under unimaginably dreadful conditions,” said Four Paws veterinarian and head of mission Amir Khalil. “We are happy to finally put an end to this horror,” he said in the statement.
The animal welfare group had previously evacuated two other zoos in Gaza, where desperate poverty means owners are often unable to provide adequate conditions.
Israel has imposed a crippling blockade on the Gaza Strip for more than a decade, measures it says are necessary to isolate the enclave’s Islamist rulers Hamas.
In 2016 Four Paws helped facilitate the transfer of the sole tiger in the Gaza Strip, with it eventually relocated to South Africa. In 2017 the organisation rescued a lion and a bear from a zoo in Mosul in Iraq.