Lions rescued from Gaza find new home in Free State sanctuary

09 April 2019 - 12:21 By KAMAL MORGAN
A sedated lioness waits to be moved at a zoo in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, during the evacuation by members of international animal welfare charity Four Paws
A sedated lioness waits to be moved at a zoo in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, during the evacuation by members of international animal welfare charity Four Paws
Image: SAID KHATIB / AFP

After spending their lives in a war zone, two lions are on their way to their ancestral home in Africa.

The lions from Rafah zoo, in the Gaza Strip, are due to land at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on Wednesday, a day later than originally planned.

Their new home will be at Lionsrock, near Bethlehem in the Free State where they will join more than 100 other big cats rescued by the charity Four Paws.

Forty-seven animals from the Rafah zoo were rescued by Four Paws at the weekend and taken 300km to Jordan by road.

"The rescue mission was originally scheduled for the end of March but had to be postponed due to ongoing unrest in the region," said Four Paws.

Amir Khalil, a vet with animal welfare charity Four Paws, sedates a lion at a zoo in Rafah on April 6 2019 before its journey to Jordan.
Amir Khalil, a vet with animal welfare charity Four Paws, sedates a lion at a zoo in Rafah on April 6 2019 before its journey to Jordan.
Image: SAID KHATIB / AFP

The charity's vet Amir Khalil said it had been a huge challenge to examine and load 47 animals, which include monkeys, porcupines and wolves, in four days.

"Thanks to the co-operation of all authorities, it was possible for us to bring the animals safely out of Gaza," he said. "From Israel to Palestine and Jordan, it was impressive to see how these three nations worked together for the animals from Rafah."

At Lionsrock, the two Gaza lions will join the other big cats rescued from breeding and hunting farms and zoos in a 60ha enclosure.


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