A GAZA zoo that hit the headlines earlier this year for its appalling conditions has been accused of blackmailing animal charities after accepting cash to close only to reopen months later.
Rafah Zoo, situated near the territory’s border with Egypt, faced criticism after images emerged showing its 47 animals, which included lions, monkeys, and peacocks, emaciated and in cramped enclosures.
A Gaza zoo has reopened after shutting down in because its animals had been pictured living in appalling conditions[/caption]
Rafah Zoo accepted more than £44,000 from an animal charity to close, and has now been accused of blackmail[/caption]
Animals have again been seen in undersized cages[/caption]
The zoo agreed to close, and accepted more than £44,000 from Vienna-based animal charity Four Paws to pay for food and medical treatment until the animals could be moved.
In April, the animals were sedated and moved 190 miles to a new home in Jordan via Israel, which gave special permission for the land transfer.
But the zoo is now reported to have reopened, and to be keeping lions, ostriches, and monkeys, again in undersized enclosures.
Four Paws has expressed shock at the news, and said that they received assurances from the zoo owners that it would close once the transfer of animals had been completed.
Martin Bauer, a spokesperson for the charity, told Central European News: “Of course we are disappointed that it has reopened after promising to close, and it now rests in the hands of local authorities to act because, as far as we know, the newly opened zoo has no licence.
“Of course, if local officials confiscate the animals, we would be prepared to enter into talks about assisting in their rescue and relocating in a more species-appropriate habitat.
“But we need to move away from the circle of paying each time to rescue the animals in a kind of hostage situation.”
Forty-seven animals were removed from the zoo in April[/caption]
The animals were sedated and transported to Jordan[/caption]
Of the lions now being kept in the zoo, two are fully-grown and three are cubs.
Recent visitors to the zoo report seeing staff trying to separate lion cubs from their mothers users sticks so that customers could be photographed with them.
They also said ostriches were being kept in tiny cages and were constantly pecking at their bars, and that monkeys could be seen eating rubbish off the floor.
New manager Ashraf Jumaa, who is thought to be related to the people who promised to close the zoo, denied the zoo was trying to blackmail charities for more money.
“Our main objective is not trade but entertainment, and we decided to reopen because that was what local people wanted,” he said.
But he admitted that the zoo would be unable to afford to feed all its lions once the cubs began to grow.
He said the fully-grown lions would need 22-30kg of meat a day, which they would not be able to cover given current visitor numbers.
Gaza continues to suffer economically under a land, air, and sea blockade imposed by Israel after militant organisation Hamas took control of the strip in 2007.
Around half of Gaza’s two million people are estimated to live below the poverty line.
A spokesman for the Gaza agriculture ministry said they had not discussed the reopening with anyone at the zoo, and that there was little likelihood the necessary land could be made available for a zoo to meet international standards.
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Four Paws has said that the current cages sizes are completely unacceptable and that the animals were in need of better food and medical care.
Local animal rights activist Mohammed Aweda cast doubt on the prospect of a further rescue, saying there was already a debate about whether the last payment should be counted as animal trading.
One of the big cats is sedated before being removed from his cage[/caption]
A vet uses a blow dart to sedate one of the monkeys[/caption]
Medics tend to one of the zoo’s lions[/caption]
The animals were given new homes at other facilities[/caption]
A wolf is sedated before being transferred to a new home in Jordan[/caption]
The animal welfare group Four Paws international carried out the relocation[/caption]
Some of the birds were left behind to fly to freedom[/caption]
The owner of the zoo blamed Israeli-led blockades for leaving him unable to care for his animals[/caption]
Many of the birds and animals were kept in cramped conditions[/caption]
Israel gave permission for the animals to pass through its territory[/caption]
One of the young monkeys rescued from the animal attraction[/caption]
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