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article imageStarvation, neglect, years of conflict affect Gaza's zoo animals

By Karen Graham     Jan 22, 2016 in World
Gaza - The six makeshift zoos in Gaza have deteriorated to the point that the remaining animals are starving and terribly neglected. The owners have no money to buy food for the creatures, let alone provide veterinary care, and so the animals die, one by one.
At one zoo in the southern section of Gaza Strip, an emaciated tiger paces back and forth within its cage, its shrunken belly quite evident, and its striped coat hanging loosely from its body.
"I swear to God the tiger has not eaten for four or five days," said Mohammed Ouida, the owner of South Jungle Zoo. "It needs 100 shekels (about $20) of food a day," reports U.S. News and World Report.
All of Gaza's zoos were once filled with families and schoolchildren on day trips, coming to see tigers, monkeys, ostriches, crocodiles and camels, but the zoos are all but empty now, the victims of years of conflict, neglect and little regard for the welfare of animals.
The conditions in Gaza have deteriorated greatly since being taken over in 2007 by Hamas, an Islamic militant group bent on the destruction of Israel. The seizure of the territory prompted a blockade by both Egypt and Israel, and life in the Gaza Strip has not been the same since that time.
For the 1.8 million people living in Gaza, living in an area about twice the size of Washington, D.C., life is hard enough. "People have a hard time finding food, much less the animals," lamented Ouida. He and his brothers at one time devoted all their resources to the zoo. Now, Ouida works at a quarry, and his two brothers drive taxis to make ends meet. Once in a while, one of the three will come by the zoo.
What is really distressing is that the zoos were set up by private business people who had no experience in taking care of captive animals. CTV News Canada reports that people they hired had no experience either, "Basically, it's improvisation by some citizens," said Zakaria al-Kafarna, a veterinary official at the Hamas Agriculture Ministry. He adds that he only provides immunizations to livestock and not wild animals.
At the Al-Bisan Zoo, built by Hamas in northern Gaza, things are not much better. The zoo opened in 2007 as part of a complex that included swimming pools, gardens and a soccer field. The complex was destroyed in fighting with Israel, and now, no one comes, and there is little money to feed the animals.
"Nobody is paying attention (to the zoo) because of the blockade and the situation. They don't take care of the animals at all," said Mohammed Abu Safia, of the zoo's administration. Things are so bad, Hamas is having trouble paying its 40,000 employees, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Ouida says he would be "thankful" for any outside help. "I'm waiting for someone to buy the zoo or for the animals to die," he said.
It is difficult to focus on the miserable conditions of zoo animals when millions of people in the Middle East, Gaza and around the world are suffering from conflict, disease and starvation. Perhaps it can be said that this story is just a reminder that all of us are in the same boat, after all.
More about Gaza zoo, Starvation, years of conflict, Animal welfare, hamas in control
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