Rescuers Arrive At 'Worst Zoo In The World'
Not many people are talking about the 15 animals left at a zoo in Khan Younis, a town in war-torn Gaza, but some rescuers are refusing to give up on them.
The zoo - also known as South Forest Park, and which opened with 65 animals in 2007 - earned the reputation of being the worst zoo in the world when news broke that mummified dead animals were being displayed alongside live ones. This was just after the zoo was abandoned for three weeks, when Israel's airstrikes against Hamas ravaged the region in 2008, leaving many animals to starve.
"We have more variations and different species as preserved animals than we have living," a zoo official told the Associated Press in 2012. "If there will be more [Israeli border] restrictions we may end up calling it preserved animals zoo."
But Four Paws International, an animal advocacy group, has been organizing trips to send much-needed supplies to the live zoo animals who still await their liberation. They were first granted entry to the region in April of last year.
Last week, a team was dispatched to figure out a solution for the remaining animals, after the owner of the zoo sold off some of them because he couldn't afford to take care of them anymore.
"A long-term solution must be found for the animals as soon as possible," Dr. Amir Khalil, leader of the emergency mission in Gaza, wrote in a statement. "We're going to give the animals medical treatment and check the enclosures for safety."
One of the animals left behind in the worst zoo on earth is Laziz, the last tiger in all of Gaza.
There are also several monkeys, one of whom was discovered to be pregnant. Rescuers hope she doesn't have to give birth in the nightmare situation she's currently forced to endure.
Porcupines, tortoises and birds are also still awaiting rescue.
"All these animals are somewhat neglected and urgently need medical care," the organization wrote on June 10. The team was "able to enter Gaza yesterday and intends to stay there until the end of the week to thoroughly evaluate the situation on the ground."
But because no laws or provisions govern the private keeping of wild animals in the region, Four Paws needs everyone's cooperation to help the animals, from the animals' owners, to the land owners, to government officials from Israel, Gaza and Jordan. Any rescue mission would involve transporting the animals through these three regions.
But Four Paws has been successful in a number of tricky missions like this in the past. For example, in September 2014, the organization transferred three lions from the damaged Al-Bisan Zoo in the Gaza strip to a rescue center in Jordon.
While it's still uncertain what the future holds for these animals in Khan Younis, that the zoo is accepting help from Four Paws is a glimmer of hope.
To help Four Paws with its rescue missions you can make a donation here: