SOURCE: FOUR PAWS International

FOUR PAWS International

April 11, 2017 11:12 ET

Zoo Animals That Survived Mosul Escape Iraq

Simba and Lula are brought to sanctuary in Jordan

AMMAN, JORDAN--(Marketwired - April 11, 2017) - FOUR PAWS, the international animal welfare organization, planned a rescue mission to save bear Lula and lion Simba from the bombed-out Montazah Al-Morour zoo in Mosul, Iraq. The harrowing rescue finally came to an end earlier today.

After months of starvation and suffering in damaged cages in a desolate zoo inside the worn-torn city of Mosul, and nine days of waiting at the checkpoint near the border between Iraqi Army controlled territory and Kurdistan region, both animals have finally arrived safe and sound at the rescue and rehabilitation centre New Hope in Amman, Jordan. This morning, the FOUR PAWS rescue team released Lula and Simba into their temporary enclosures where they can recover from their strenuous travel conditions under the watch and protection of veterinarians and animal keepers.

FOUR PAWS veterinarian and leader of the mission Dr Amir Khalil explained "It was an odyssey. But now we are so happy that we could bring Lula and Simba to New Hope Centre where they are well cared for. From now on they will have a new, and much better life with proper food, medical care and in a species appropriate environment, they can live without the constant danger of a nearby war-zone and the noise of bomb blasts in the background."

On their way to safety they had to endure quite an ordeal. Their journey started on Tuesday, March 28th, when the FOUR PAWS team entered the Mosul Zoo for the first rescue attempt. The animal welfare team managed to anaesthetise bear Lula and lion Simba, load them in prepared crates on a truck and travel with the animals to the border out of Mosul. However, the mission came to an abrupt stop at a checkpoint near the border, when the team was told it was not allowed to exit Mosul. The Iraqi military subsequently took the animals back to the zoo while the FOUR PAWS team had to exit Mosul. Dr Khalil described the setback, "We were never informed of the exact details as to why we were not allowed to pass, but, of course, transporting large wild animals in an area with such a complex political situation is not easy and the military has to check all permissions thoroughly."

Dr Khalil and his team negotiated with the Iraqi military and authorities. The team was allowed to re-enter Mosul for the second rescue attempt two days later. However, the animal welfare workers and the zoo animals were stopped at the checkpoint near the border out of Mosul again. Days of waiting, organizing and further negotiations began, while the animals were stuck in their transport crates at the checkpoint. Despite the difficult circumstances, the FOUR PAWS team managed to care for the animals, to provide them with food and water. Dr Khalil, who was with the animals during this hard time and was sleeping in a small room provided by the military, said "Our mission in Iraq was supported by many locals and proved that even in worst hardships there are people who care for animals. I am very touched to have experienced the humanity of the civilian population as well as military. Many of the soldiers shared their food with the animals."

Lula and Simba will stay in their temporary enclosure at the New Hope Centre until they have adapted to their new surroundings and their permanent enclosure, which is currently being set up, is ready for them. The New Hope Centre in Amman is a rescue and rehabilitation centre that FOUR PAWS is cooperating with. FOUR PAWS financially supported the construction of the New Hope Centre established in January 2010 by the Princess Alia Foundation. The purpose of the centre is to provide rehoming, rehabilitation and medical treatment for animals rescued from very poor keeping conditions.

FOUR PAWS set up donation pages, where animal lovers from all over the world can help to give Lula and Simba a nice and species-appropriate new home with enough space for them to act out their natural instincts: https://www.four-paws.us/mosul

The Montazah Al-Morour zoo was hit by bombs and severely damaged during an armed conflict between ISIS and the Iraqi forces over a month ago. About 40 animals died, some starved, others were directly killed by the bomb attacks, while others fled from their damaged cages. FOUR PAWS was the first NGO to receive a permission to enter Mosul. Dr Khalil was in the Mosul zoo in February to examine the bear and the lion, to treat them and to organize with volunteers the regular feeding of the animals.

This is not the first mission that FOUR PAWS has carried out in the Middle East. By September 2014, FOUR PAWS had already undertaken an emergency mission in the severely damaged Al Bisan Zoo in the Gaza Strip. Three lions were transferred to Jordan. Then again in 2015, FOUR PAWS was asked to rescue two lion cub siblings who lived with family including young children in a refugee camp. Later that year, FOUR PAWS was back in Gaza to assist with the desolate Khan Younis Zoo, most commonly known as "the worst zoo in the world". FOUR PAWS was able to transport the surviving 15 animals including Gaza's last tiger, Laziz.

Mosul mission footage link: https://ftp.vier-pfoten.org/?u=XvmPQDxs&p=hk1rE3cg

And https://ftp.vier-pfoten.org/?u=OZ8zS4yf&p=53GWS4Hf

Includes photo selection from the rescue mission as well as the release of Lula and Simba at New Hope Centre and rough cut/video material.

Copyright: © FOUR PAWS

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