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Lion cubs die in extreme weather conditions in Gaza's zoo

Jan. 18, 2019 4:43 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 20, 2019 12:46 P.M.)
Animals are evacuated from the Khan Yunis Zoo in the besieged Gaza Strip in August 2016. (Photo courtesy of Four Paws)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Four African lion cubs were found dead, in the Rafah City zoo in the southern besieged Gaza Strip, due to recent extreme weather conditions, on Thursday.

Gaza has been witnessing low temperatures the past week, with residents talking about the "coldest winter for years" as a winter storm hit on Wednesday.

Fathi Jumaa, the zoo manager, explained "We could not secure the necessary food supplements, medicines and antibiotics to save the lives of the cubs. We do not have enough money and the blockade is exacerbating the situation."

Jumaa said that he covered the cage of the day-old cubs with blankets ahead of the winter storm, however, they did not survive despite attempts to save their lives.

Gaza’s zoos are unable to secure much of the food and equipment necessary for the care of the animals as a result of the “dire” economic situation and the nearly 12-year Israeli siege.

He stressed, "Due to the dire economic situation, the Israeli tight blockade, we cannot secure heating systems or plastic rain protection.”

"The cubs’ health deteriorated quickly, and we could not do anything about it," he added.

Jumaa pointed out that more animals will be affected by the cold weather conditions the cold weather if the zoo is not able to secure the much needed equipment in order to provide proper care.
Jumaa mentioned, "These are African lions, they are not used to living in such cold weather and they really need special protection."

It is noteworthy that most of the animals in Gaza’s zoos were smuggled a few years ago from Egypt into Gaza through underground tunnels that ran beneath the border. The Egyptian army had destroyed these tunnels.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), about 1.3 million people in Gaza, about 68% of the population, were identified as “food insecure” in 2018.

International animal care groups have carried out several evacuation missions in recent years to relocate animals and birds in poor condition to sanctuaries outside Gaza.

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