Vier Pfoten leads rescue mission to Tripoli Zoo

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  September 2011:

TRIPOLI–Veterinarian Amir Khalil of the Austrian-based international animal charity Vier Pfoten on September 9,  2011 led a rescue team to the aid of the 700 animals at the Tripoli Zoo.  Vier Pfoten is believed to be the first animal charity allowed to work in Libya in more than 40 years.


North Carolina Zoo director David Jones and the International Fund for Animal Welfare had raised $10,000 to help the rescue,  Jones said on the North Carolina Zoo web site.

“The zoo is in the former Gadhafi stronghold of Abu Salim, which saw some of the fiercest fighting during the battles for Tripoli,  and was the last neighborhood to come under rebel control,” wrote Hadeel Al-Shalchi of Associated Press.
CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson discovered the plight of the zoo animals on August 30.

“Robertson found the gates locked and was told the zoo was under renovation-that there were no animals there,”  CNN reported.  “But a big cat’s roar told a different story.  Robertson followed the sound–underscored by the echo of gunfire in the distance–to find enclosures holding a tiger,  lions,  giant tortoises,  hippos,  hyenas,  bears,  monkeys, deer,  emus,  and more.  All the animals appeared undernourished and struggling as they waited for food and for water where there was little or none to be found.”  The 200-member zoo staff fled nearby fighting a week earlier,  CNN continued.  Ten staff later returned to try to feed and water the survivors.

“The body of a gazelle lies near an empty feeding bin,” opened Al-Shalchi in a September 1 follow-up.  “Once one of the city’s best-loved family destinations,  today the zoo is 110 dusty acres of listless animals and overgrown,  sunburned grass.  Empty bullet casings are scattered everywhere.  A patch of black grass near the monkey cage shows where a rocket-propelled grenade hit.  A turtle cage is cracked by gunfire,  garbage is piled everywhere,  and three forlorn hippopotamuses hang their heads in a filthy pit,”  Al-Shalchi wrote.  “Because of the city’s water shortage,  the zoo’s skeleton staff can only clean the animals’ cages every four or five days.”

Tripoli Zoo director Abdel-Fattah Husni told Al-Shalchi that the zoo was $1.5 million in debt to food suppliers.
Nine of the 19 Tripoli Zoo lions were personal pets of one of Gaddafi’s sons,  Al-Saadi Gaddafi,  who “would come to visit the lions even in the middle of the war,  until he fled,”  Husni told Al-Shalchi.”

“Usually there are three phases in these situations,”  Jones said.  “Urgent,  then more chronic animal management needs,  and finally long-term training and technical assistance.  We are still involved with the Kabul Zoo [in Afghanistan] after nine years,” Jones noted.

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