The emaciated body of a lion decomposes in the blistering sun, flies buzzing around; the mummified corpse of a baboon lies on the ground nearby, it’s head still turned up as though he’s looking out of its enclosure; a porcupine’s spines protrude from its lifeless body.
These three are among the dozens of animals who have perished at Khan Younis Zoo in the Gaza Strip, after staff left them without food. Owner Mohammed Awaida has blamed the Palestinian and Israeli conflict for the tragedy. He claims that his staff have been unable to feed or care properly for the animals at the zoo.
Mr. Awaida opened the “South Forest Park” in 2007 and lost a number of animals during Israel’s war against Hamas that began in December 2008. During the three-week offensive, Awaida said he could not reach his zoo and many animals died of neglect and starvation.
1. Dozens of neglected animals have died at a zoo in Gaza City after the facility’s owner claimed he was unable to feed or care for them because of the Israeli Palestinian conflict.
2. The mummified corpse of this baboon, pictured in its enclosure next to the bodies of several other monkeys, died at Khan Younis Zoo.
3. Palestinian workers came back to find many of the zoo’s animals had died including this small monkey.
4. This beautiful tiger was one of many that dies from hunger or thirst after the zoo owner said Gaza region’s conflict with Israel made it impossible for staff to reach it.
And it seems that history has repeated itself. The fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants flared up again last summer, killing close to 2,000 Palestinians and 67 people on the Israeli side.
Staff unable to reach the zoo once again, animals died of neglect and starvation. A little monkey died in its enclosure, its teeth still clenched together. In another pen, a Palestinian zoo worker inspects the remnants of a crocodile.
Khan Younis is one of five zoos in the densely populated Gaza Strip — an enclave of 1.7 million people ruled by Islamic Hamas militants.
With no government body that oversees zoos in Gaza, and no animal rights movement to speak of, the Khan Younis zoo is practically unsupervised.
5. Mr. Awaida said he opened the ‘South Forest Park’ in 2007, only to lose a number of animals during Israel’s military offensive against Hamas that began in December 2008.
6. A Palestinian worker is seen inspecting the body of a dead crocodile at the zoo in Khan Younis, in the Gaze strip.
7. This little monkey, which died in its enclosure with its teeth still clenched together, has been dead for some time.
8. With no government body in Gaza that oversees zoos, and no animal rights movement in the region, the Khan Younis facility is virtually unsupervised.
Animal care is basic. There is no zookeeper on the premises and medical treatment is provided by consulting over the phone with zoo veterinarians in Egypt.
The zoo has a tradition of stuffing and embalming animals that die and returning them to their enclosures. The facility has ten embalmed animals on display in makeshift exhibits — built from fencing salvaged from Jewish settlements that Israel dismantled in 2005.
But after losing dozens of the zoo’s 65 animals, including ostriches, monkeys, turtles, deer, a llama, a lion and a tiger, the numbers of dead animals may soon outnumber the living.
9. This porcupine’s brittle spines protrude from its lifeless body, it’s eyes pecked out, after being deprived of food.
10. When staff do get to the zoo, there care is basic — there is no zookeeper on the premises and medical treatment is done by consulting over the phone with zoo veterinarians in Egypt.
11. The zoo did have 65 live animals, which included ostriches, monkeys, turtles, deer, a llama, a lion and a tiger.
12. The zoo has a tradition of stuffing and embalming those that die and return them to their enclosures which could be the fate of some of the better preserved animals.
Mr. Awaida started using his basic taxidermy skills on dead animals at the zoo after the Gaza war began. He said:
The idea to mummify animals started after the Gaza war because a number of animals like the lion, the tiger, monkeys and crocodiles died. So we asked around and we learned from the Web how to start.
Formaldehyde and sawdust were the basic tools, though Mr. Awaida acknowledged he was not an expert. A hole in the porcupine’s head, for example, is impossible not to notice.
Gaza’s zoos known fro resorting to odd ways to get by amid the territory’s struggles. In 2009, for example, a zoo in Gaza City exhibited white donkeys painted with black stripes to resemble zebras because it was too expensive to replace two zebras who were neglected during the Israeli war.
In the West Bank city of Qalqilya, zoo veterinarian Sami Khader took up taxidermy nine years ago after a giraffe named Brownie died during the second Palestinian uprising against Israel.
Hassan Azzam, director of the veterinary services department in Gaza’s ministry of agriculture, admitted that “we have humble capabilities”, but the ministry nevertheless encourages zoos.
13. This baboon’s face and eyes have already begun to rot away after it was deprived of water and food by staff at the zoo who claim they were unable to reach them.
14. A few animals have survived the long periods without food or proper care at the Khan Younis zoo, such as this pelican.
15. A deer is also counted amongst the survivors of the tragedy which staff blame on the ongoing Palestinian Israeli conflict.
Gaza Zoo: animal victims of war:
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