Animals at Gaza's zoos die of hunger, diseases

RAFAH, Palestinian Territory -- The African tiger at the zoo in southern Gaza Strip was emaciated, its belly shrunken and its striped coat hanging loose.

See Full Article

It strode nervously up and down its cage.

"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."

Once bustling with families bringing their children to see lions, monkeys, crocodiles and ostriches, the zoo is mostly empty now, and Ouida can't generate enough cash to feed his animals.

The same story is playing out across Gaza's six makeshift zoos. Years of conflict, cold winters, longstanding negligence and outbreaks of disease have killed many animals in captivity.

Even in better times, there has often been little awareness of animal welfare in Gaza. In 2013, for instance, two lion cubs died shortly after birth because zoo workers in northern Gaza did not know how to care for them. In another renowned scene captured on film, Gazans used a crane to lift a camel over the border fence from Egypt into Gaza as the animal twitched in the air in agony. South Jungle has even turned to taxidermy to keep its deceased animals on exhibit.

Conditions in Gaza, home to 1.8 million people, have steadily deteriorated since Hamas, an Islamic militant group sworn to Israel's destruction, seized control of the territory in 2007 and prompted an Israeli and Egyptian blockade.

The loss of one of Gaza's few allies, former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who was ousted by the military in 2013 after protests against his rule, and a 2014 war with Israel have hit the territory especially hard. Unemployment is estimated by World Bank to stand at 43 per cent, and Gazans suffer shortages of many goods, including electricity and cooking gas.

Over the past two years, Egypt has also shut its borders with Gaza, preventing Gazans from leaving the territory, and blocked smuggling tunnels. The closure has not only stopped new animals from arriving, but also deprived Hamas of major smuggling tax revenues. Cash-strapped Hamas has struggled to pay the salaries of its 40,000 employees.

"People have a hard time finding food, much less the animals," lamented Ouida, noting that half of the remaining 20 or so animals and birds in his zoo are ill because he also can't afford a veterinarian. Vets used to check his animals every two months.

Since the zoo opened in 2007, Ouida and his brothers have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into their business. They once employed 30 workers, and ran a cafeteria serving families and school trippers. These days, Ouida works at a gravel quarry and his two brothers drive a taxi. Only two of them still show up at South Jungle.

The zoo's problems began during a 50-day war between Israel and Hamas in 2014. The zoo was not directly hit, but neither Ouida nor his brothers could reach the site to feed the animals. The African tiger's mate starved to death.

Of the six ostriches, only one is still alive. The lions and the only llama died in December. There are no more crocodiles. The dead animals are primitively stuffed and stacked in a corner of the zoo.

Most of Gaza's zoos are private business ventures, set up by owners who lack experience in caring for animals in captivity.

"Basically, it's improvisation by some citizens," said Zakaria al-Kafarna, veterinary official at the Hamas Agriculture Ministry, which only provides immunizations for livestock, not wild animals.

The effect of conflict and years of negligence is also evident at Al-Bisan Zoo, built by Hamas in northern Gaza. It was badly damaged during the 2014 war, when more than 80 animals and birds died.

A wildcat, two monkeys and a falcon fell sick and died in December. The animals looked hungry and neglected, and were shivering from cold during a recent visit.

The zoo opened in 2007 as part of a Hamas built complex that also had swimming pools, soccer pitches and gardens. The complex was destroyed in fighting with Israel. No one visits anymore, and Hamas provides little money to care for 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.

In 2014, an animal welfare organization evacuated three scrawny lions from Al-Bisan to Jordan. Last summer, the same charity, Four Paws International, helped send two lion cubs to a safe sanctuary in Jordan after Ouida, the South Jungle Zoo owner, sold them.

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.


Latest Tech & Science News

  • Canadian hobbyists help shed light on mysterious northern lights phenomenon 'Steve'

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The mysterious light in the sky had appeared so often that Canadian northern lights watchers gave it a name: Steve. Unlike those famous pulsating ribbons of light that stretch across the sky, Steve would appear as a narrow arch of purple light, sometimes paired with green fence-like features. Source
  • Platypus milk has protein with potential to fight superbugs

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The milk of the duck-billed platypus has a unique protein with antimicrobial properties that Australian scientists believe could be a new lead in creating antibiotics effective against superbugs. The platypus is already a strange creature — a venomous mammal with a beaver-like tail and duck bill. Source
  • World's biggest battery in Australia to trump Musk's

    Tech & Science CTV News
    British billionaire businessman Sanjeev Gupta will build the world's biggest battery in South Australia, officials said Friday, overtaking U.S. star entrepreneur Elon Musk's project in the same state last year. The 120MW/140MWh battery storage facility will support a new solar farm at the Whyalla Steelworks, which was taken over by Gupta's GFG Alliance when it bought Australia's cash-strapped steelmaking giant Arrium last year. Source
  • Pandas at Toronto Zoo headed for new home in Calgary

    Tech & Science CTV News
    The pandas that captured the hearts of Torontonians and tourists alike are moving on to make new friends and memories in Calgary. The Toronto Zoo’s four pandas are spending their last weekend in Ontario before heading to the Calgary Zoo for the next five years. Source
  • Toronto beauty tech firm ModiFace sold to L'Oreal

    Tech & Science CBC News
    French cosmetics conglomerate L'Oreal is buying ModiFace, a Canadian augmented reality and artificial intelligence firm which caters to the beauty industry. The Toronto-based firm will be part of L'Oreal's Digital Services Factory, a dedicated network to design and develop new digital services for the group's brands, the Paris-based group announced Friday. Source
  • Twitter helps solve decades-old mystery of lone black woman pictured among male scientists

    Tech & Science CTV News
    An unidentified woman in a black and white group photo from a 1971 marine biology conference sparked an amateur sleuthing mission on Twitter led by a relentless Utah artist determined to learn more about the mysterious lone female in an otherwise male crowd. Source
  • New attack sub USS Colorado to join U.S. Navy fleet

    Tech & Science CTV News
    PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The U.S. Navy's newest attack submarine, the USS Colorado, will go into service Saturday at the Naval Submarine Base in Connecticut. Cmdr. Reed Koepp, the Colorado's commanding officer, says it's an exciting time for the crew, shipbuilders, the local community in Connecticut and the state of Colorado. Source
  • Snow science: Crystal clues to climate change, watersheds

    Tech & Science CTV News
    HIGHMOUNT, N.Y. -- Capturing snowflakes isn't as easy as sticking out your tongue. At least not when you're trying to capture them for scientific study, which involves isolating the tiniest of crystals on a metal card printed with grid lines and quickly placing them under a microscope to be photographed. Source
  • Five things about 'Fortnite,' the video game Drake shared with his fans

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Drake's a fan, as is Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews, along with legions of other gamers. They're all hooked on "Fortnite," a multiplayer video game that made headlines Thursday for a celebrity-studded match watched by hundreds of thousands of fans. Source
  • Fading hype for Vero shows fickle nature of Internet

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TORONTO - It seems like just yesterday that the Internet was overtaken with viral hype over Vero, a new social network that promised to right all the frustrating wrongs of the well-entrenched leaders like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Source