“Fighting to survive”: Gaza Zoo reveals its shortage of animals

The zoo has lost most of its animals

NAMA Zoo in Gaza City showcases beautiful paintings of a bear, an elephant, and a giraffe on its exterior walls. However, within the zoo’s enclosures, none of these magnificent creatures are present.

Six years ago, the zoo lost its only tiger, and due to financial constraints, the owners have been unable to replace it despite visitors’ requests.

In the past, Gaza was home to six zoos. However, the economic difficulties resulting from the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt have led to the closure of two zoos.

Replacing lost animals at NAMA Zoo is a challenging task, as Mahmoud Al-Sultan, the medical supervisor, highlights the limitations of resources, capabilities, and the high costs associated with acquiring new animals.

Over a decade ago, the zoo initially acquired its animals through smuggling tunnels from Egypt. At present, NAMA Zoo is home to a variety of animals, including crocodiles, hyenas, foxes, deer, monkeys, a solitary ibex, a wolf, and four pairs of lions that consume a weekly diet of 60 kilograms of meat.

Children gather near the lion enclosures, observing the animals from a distance and occasionally touching the bars of deer and bird cages. The zoo offers tickets for less than $1 due to financial constraints faced by the community.

Fouad Saleh, a nine-year-old visitor, expresses his desire to see more diverse animals, longing for elephants, giraffes, or tigers.

Unfortunately, Gaza lacks the necessary medical facilities to treat larger animals like lions and tigers. In the past, the international animal welfare group, Four Paws, had to intervene and relocate animals to new homes in Israel, Jordan, or even as far as South Africa.

Sultan emphasizes the ongoing struggle to provide food for the animals, mentioning the use of frozen food such as chicken and turkeys. In some cases, if a donkey is injured, it is slaughtered and distributed among the lions.

The situation at NAMA Zoo sheds light on the challenges faced by zoos in Gaza, including limited resources, financial hardships, and the inability to introduce new animals or provide optimal care.

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