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Further operations in Gaza: FOUR PAWS to remove lion cubs from refugee camp


Update, 2015-07-06 - Finally a species-appropriate home for the two lion cubs


After months under bad keeping conditions the two lions could finally move into their new species-appropriate habitat in Jordan. Although the past days have been amoung the hardest of our entire life, we are very happy that we could finally fulfill our mission and rescue these two lions. 


Pictures will follow soon! 

Update - 05.07.2015: We are on our way to Jordan


FINALLY: Our mission is completed. Our team together with the two lion cubs has got permission to finally leave Gaza. We are now on the way to Jordan, where the two lions will move into their new species-appropriate home. 

© VIER PFOTEN l Tom Benda

Update - 2015-07-05: The lion cubs are officially in our care


Since Thursday a FOUR PAWS Team has been in the Gaza Strip trying to rescue two lion cubs from a refugee camp. The good news : the rescue action has been sucessful! The cubs are already officially in our care. But - the mission is not yet completed. Our Team as well as the cubs are unfortunately still stuck in Gaza at the border waiting to leave. We are now trying to mobilize all our contacts on site to travel with the whole team to Jordan, the final new and safe home of the lions. Keep your fingers crossed for our mission that all goes well. Despite a bad internet connection in Gaza we will try to keep you updated.


“Shalom” and “Salam” have become a significant danger for people in the Rafah camp

Photos of the lion cubs in the middle of the refugee camp in the Gaza Strip went around the world: last March, a father of six bought the cubs – then just two months old – from Rafah Zoo as a treat for his grandchildren. The new ‘pets’ quickly pushed the family to their financial and physical limits. Dr Amir Khalil, leader of the FOUR PAWS emergency team, has spent weeks seeking a solution for the cubs, named Shalom and Salam. The strict travel and access regulations, and dealing with the cubs’ owner, have been proving very challenging for the FOUR PAWS team.


In the starting blocks for a new operation in Gaza

FOUR PAWS is confident that it will soon get the go-ahead to step in in the Gaza Strip. A team of vets and logistics staff will soon travel to Rafah to rescue the two cubs from this irresponsible private keeping. The big cats are now five months old, and they’re living with the family – which includes small children – under one roof! That’s why we want to get them out of there as quickly as we can, not least for the people’s safety. Both cubs have already grown quite a bit bigger and stronger since their arrival in the refugee camp, and they now represent a significant danger for the inhabitants of the camp.


Once there, the team will negotiate with the owner and appeal to his common sense. As soon as the lions are handed over to FOUR PAWS they will be transferred to the New Hope Center, the transit station of  Al Ma’wa Wildlife Sanctuary in Jordan.


Although Gaza is small, there are around 40 big cats there. Smuggling of exotic animals is a major problem. Even Shalam and Salam’s parents are said to have been smuggled to Rafah Zoo as cubs, by underground tunnels from Egypt into Gaza. However, military conflict last year saw the Egyptian army destroy many of the tunnels.


Travel formalities hold up rescue operations

The continuing conflict in the Gaza Strip makes travel in and out extremely difficult. For some time now, FOUR PAWS has been seeking official permission for the rescue. This is not FOUR PAWS’ first operation in the Near East: in September 2014 the organisation carried out an emergency admission in the heavily-damaged Al-Bisan Zoo in the north of the Gaza Strip, and three lions were transferred to a rescue station. In April, a FOUR PAWS emergency team carried out a relief operation to provide medical treatment and food to the animals in the run-down Khan Younis Zoo.


We very much hope that the current owner sees sense, and lets us take the lions. They should be given a beautiful, safe home – and not be sold on to another zoo in the area!

WATCH: FOUR PAWS to remove lion cubs from refugee camp in Gaza