Animals are among the first victims of political crisis, and nowhere is this more evident than in Gaza. The Times of Israel journalists recently toured the Gaza Strip’s unofficial Khan Younis Zoo and found mangled animals stuffed and displayed in makeshift cages littered with trash.
The owner Mohammed Awaida opened the zoo shortly before Israel’s three-week offensive against Hamas militants in December, 2008. During that time, he was unable to get to the animals, many of whom succumbed to starvation and neglect. Instead of disposing of their bodies, the self-trained taxidermist went online to learn how to stuff them using formaldehyde and sawdust.
Mangled dead animals
On display are a skeletal lion with a mangy coat, a monkey missing limbs, and a porcupine with a hole in its head. And the 65 live animals, according to Dalia Nammari and Daniella Cheslow, aren’t in much better shape. Since there are no animal activists in the forsaken Gaza Strip nor an official body overseeing zoo facilities, anything goes.
Since Israel has blocked all but one entrance into Gaza to deter Hamas militants, the animals are smuggled to Gaza from Egypt through underground tunnels that have come under fire after three Palestinian men drowned in a wastewater flood. But they are not properly cared for.
Dismal state of animal affairs
Awaida receives veterinary advice by telephone from Egypt, which also has a dubious and long record of inflicting abuse and neglect on its wild animals.
“We have humble capabilities, but the ministry encourages zoos,”Hassan Azzam, director of the veterinary services department in Gaza’s ministry of agriculture, told the journalists, who emphasize that despite being a rather grim experience, the Gaza Strip’s 1.7 million residents have few other entertainment options.
A 14 year old boy visiting Khan Younis said he had never seen stuffed animals before and told reporters he was going to put a photo on his wall of him standing next to the bedraggled lion.
Image credit: Sick Lion, Shuterstock
More on Zoos and Wild Animals in the Middle East:
Gaza Zoo Paints Donkeys to Look Like Zebras
Corruption is Alive and Well at Egyptian Zoo
Egyptian Man Plans to Fight African Lion for Tourism