For one year, the animal conservation group worked with the Agricultural and Environmental Ministries to emigrate the two animals, which are badly stigmatized in the Middle East. Some critics said they should have been released back into the wild, but there aren’t sufficient resources in Lebanon to rehabilitate the animals and they almost certainly would not have survived.
“The Minister of Environment, His Excellency Nazem El-Khoury, called a meeting of experts that would determine whether the hyenas were sent to a sanctuary or returned to the wild, according to Animals Lebanon.
For one hour, the hyenas’ future was discussed.
“These animals are being moved for the benefit of the welfare of the two hyenas and the value to conservation,” Minister El-Khoury wrote when giving final approval for the transfer at the end of the meeting.
Before the two ladies could be moved to Tonga Terre d’Accueil sanctuary in Saint Martin la Plaine, France, a host of measures had to be taken beforehand.
The hyenas received vaccinations and a check up, and then Dr. Jean-Christophe Gerard conducted the final blood tests and treated them for parasites to ensure that they were fit for travel.
In order to get them into their cages, which were specifically designed at $1,000 a piece to be extremely strong since hyenas have powerful jaws, they were first tranquilized. Then they were de-tranquilized because animals are not allowed to fly while anesthetized.
One of Animal Lebanon’s corporate sponsors, Middle East Airlines paid for their flight.
The 4,000 kilometer journey went without a hitch and the two girls are currently in the same enclosure but separated by a fence. Sara is very skittish as a result of her trauma, but in time it is hoped that she and Rita will become friendly so that the fenced wall can come down.
“These were not killers, they did not have magical powers as so many people believe,” Animals Lebanon wrote in a recent release.
“Rita and Sara were both as curious and interesting as any other animal, they had foods and treats that they preferred more than others, they each had their own special characters and behaviors, and we should see them as two examples of why we need to better protect the remaining population of hyenas in Lebanon.”