Wildlife rehab center, zoos, farms try to survive under fire

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2006:

BEIRUT, HAIFA–As vulnerable as dogs and cats were during
the July and August 2006 fighting along the border of Israel and
Lebanon, captive wildlife and livestock were in even in greater
danger, having little or no opportunity to even try to survive on
their own.
The nonprofit Animal Encounter Educational Center for
Wildlife Conservation in southern Lebanon, directed by Mounir and
Diana Abi-Said, had animals of more than 35 species to look after,
most of them rehabilitation cases, the Saids e-mailed to ANIMAL
PEOPLE. Among the animals, they said, were “brown bear, wolf,
hyena, fox, deer, ostrich, pelican, white stork, imperial
eagle, jungle cat, wild boar, and jackal.”

“Situated outside the bombarded area,” the Saids explained,
“the center has become a shelter for abandoned animals. Lots of
people cannot afford to take care of their animals any more, or have
left the country for a safer place, and have been referred to Animal
Encounter. Moreover, animals are giving birth here,” including the
“Space is getting crowded, more food is needed, all the
workers have left, and volunteers are unavailable to help,” the
Saids added, noting the increased expense and transportation
difficulty involved in getting adequate food for the animals,
especially after bridges were extensively bombed.
“Fuel is getting scarce,” the Saids noted. “Using big
vehicles or pick-up trucks to get food is dangerous, since lots of
these vehicles have been bombed in other regions.”
As a result, the animals were fed “just to maintenance level
in terms of both quantity and quality,” the Saids lamented.
“However, for the children of the refugees, some activities are
being held. Sessions about the importance of wild native animals
have been given to more than 500 children at the schools that are
used as shelters for the moment.”
Held for two hours a day, three days a week, “The sessions
help to distract the children from the war,” the Saids said with
Two Beirut for the Ethical Treatment of Animals volunteers on
July 25 evacuated a baboon, a macaque, and three kittens from a
mini-zoo in the southern suburbs of Beirut, reluctantly leaving
behind “a camel, a donkey, some goats, some rabbits, an owl,
eagles, a lot of exotic birds, a lot of chickens, a family of 3
velvets, and an alligator,” BETA e-mailed to ANIMAL PEOPLE, “due
to lack of time, as attacks were to start at any second.”
The animal keepers at the Maison Zeder Zoo near Beirut “left
the area at the beginning of the war,” reported the Austrian
organization Vier Pfoten, “and abandoned the animals. Luckily
refugees who found shelter at the zoo and the family of the owner
took care of the animals.”
Vier Pfoten sponsored feeding Simba, the resident lion, and
also helped to fund the Hakol Chai relief effort on the Israeli side
of the fighting.
The Haifa Zoo “moved all the carnivores, bears and monkeys
indoors at the start of the fighting, both to protect them from
rocket strikes and to keep an errant missile on a retaining wall from
setting them loose into Israel’s third-largest city,” Associated
Press writer Delphine Mathieussent reported.
After 34 days in confinement, “The lions gained weight, but
they look basically okay,” zoo manager Etty Ararat told
“A troop of baboons scrambled to get outside through a little
gate before it was even fully opened on the first day they were
allowed out,” Mathieussent observed. “Bears paced nervously, and a
tiger blinked hard in the morning sun.”
The keepers did everything they could during the siege to
help animals made nervous by frequent explosions burn off nervous
energy. “We play with them and try to keep them calm,” Ararat told
Orly Halpern of U.S. News & World Report early in the siege, “but
the baboons are going stir-crazy. They look at us as if asking ‘What
is going on?'”
“July and August, usually the busiest months for visitors,
were wiped out financially because of the war,” Mathieussent noted.
“We had no revenues and a lot of extra expenses,” Ararat summarized.
Relatively little information was available about the plight of farm animals.
Tamara More, president of the Israeli animal rescue group Ahava,
asked Israeli armed forces to avoid bombing pastures, stables, and
dairy farms in south Lebanon, wrote Orly Halpern of U.S. News &
World Report.
“Egg farmers report that due to stress, cows are producing
less milk, and the shells of chicken eggs are so thin they fall apart
in their hands when they try to pick them up. Seventeen cows and
seven calves were killed by bombs falling on Kibbutz Amir, near
Kiryat Shmona,” CHAI founder Natelson reported.
World Society for the Protection of Animals campaigns
director Leah Garces spent much of July trying to help prevent
livestock from becoming stranded at sea. About 27,800 cattle were
believed to be en route to Lebanon, mostly from Brazil, just before
the Lebanese ports were blockaded.

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