Wars destroy Abidjan Zoo & Gaza Zoo
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2004:
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast; RAFAH, Gaza Strip– The Abidjan Zoo
was once among Africa’s largest and the pride of Ivory Coast. The
two-acre Gaza Zoo, between the embattled Rafah and Brazil refugee
camps near the border of Israel and Egypt, was among the smallest,
but still offered thousands of Palestinian children their only chance
to see animals other than dogs, cats, and domestic livestock.
War has destroyed them both, the Abidjan Zoo by attrition
since civil war broke out in September 2002, and the Gaza Zoo in a 3
a.m. onslaught by Israeli tanks and bulldozers on May 20 that
reportedly also smashed 43 homes.
“Like much of the other destruction in the six-day Israeli
offensive, the demolition of the zoo seemed more a psychological
attack on Rafah’s population than a military strike against the
Pelestinian guerrillas who maintain a strong presence in the city.
Even people whose homes or shops were destroyed had anger and anguish
to spare on behalf of the zoo,” observed Newsday correspondent James
Israeli military spokespersons said the action was meant to
intercept Palestinian arms smugglers.
News 24 of Johannesburg, South Africa, reported on May 26
that a third of the Abidjan Zoo animals have died since the Ivory
Coast fighting began. More than 3,000 humans have been killed, and
“at least a million have been driven from their homes,” News 24 said.
Zoo director Ayekoe Yapo told News 24 that even though most
of the shooting ended almost a year ago, the zoo is still not
receiving the government subsidy that previously helped to feed the
animals and hire maintenance staff.
Rebels still hold the northern part of Ivory Coast. With the
war unsettled, the national economy has not recovered sufficiently
to stimulate ticket sales.
“The elephant pens have not been mucked out properly, and
Yapo had to move some of the monkeys to a shaded part of the zoo,
where they tremble from the cold,” News 24 said.
“Their own cages are falling apart,” explained Yapo. “It’s
too dark and they get sick and lose their appetite. We humans don’t
want to live in filthy homes, so why would we expect animals to live
Muhammad Ahmed Juma, 40, an exotic pet dealer, opened the
Gaza Zoo with his brother Fathi Juma in 1999.
Mohammed Juma told Alan Cowell of The New York Times that only seven
of his 80 animals survived the attack, including an injured raccoon,
a macaw, and an ostrich.
Rupert reported that “Dr. Ali Shaker, one of five
veterinarians in Rafah, showed up to treat a gazelle with a broken
Kevin Frayer of Associated Press wrote that the zoo had recovered a
kangaroo, a pony, and several dogs. A tiger was still missing. A
dead goat and the remains of lovebirds, parrots, and cockatiels
were found in the rubble.
“One of the two pythons was gone, as well as two ostriches,
seven jaguars, foxes, and wolves,” Cowell wrote. “Exactly where
the animals went is a mystery. One resident reported seeing a
monkey, and there have been unconfirmed reports of an ostrich on the
Mohammend Juma told Rupert of Newsday that Israeli soldiers
“stole between 40 and 45 birds,” worth as much as $80,000 of losses
estimated at $300,000.
Israeli Army spokesperson Major Sharon Feingold told Cowell
that the soldiers merely released the birds rather than leave them
caged in a combat zone.
“At one end of the zoo, the bulldozers pushed a tangle of
wrecked cages, fences, pipes, and trees into what was the zoo’s
fish pond,” wrote Rupert, noting that “the stench from decaying
animal corpses in that pile had grown heavy.”
Both Nina Natelson of Concern for Helping Animals in Israel
and Ellen Moshenberg of the Cat Welfare Society of Israel flooded
Israeli officials with e-mails during the week after the Gaza Zoo was
destroyed, hoping to help the surviving animals. Neither succeeded.
Israelis were barred from going to the scene, Natelson e-mailed to
“The Army said they left the area, and it was too dangerous
to allow anyone else in,” wrote Natelson.
Mohammed Juma meanwhile eroded activist sympathy for him by
telling Chicago Tribune staff reporter Bill Glauber that he wished he
had a live rabbit to throw to his surviving python.