(Hamas children's show at the Gaza Zoo shows kids how to fling cats by the tail and throw stones at the caged lions. Note the laughing children. Where are the zookeepers?)
Their aim is to one day squeeze an elephant through one of the dozens of underground tunnels leading from Egypt to Gaza. For now, owners of the "Heaven of Birds and Animals Zoo" in Gaza are content with their lions, a pair of monkeys, a few gazelles, and a parrot. Some $40,000 worth of animals, the AP predicts, have been smuggled in through the underground tunnels.
The newswire reports that lion cubs were drugged and put into sacks to weather the journey to the dusty zoo in Gaza. Although Egypt has been working to blow up the tunnels and prevent the illegal smuggling of everything from guns, cigarettes and lingerie, they're impossible to control, report smugglers.
Israel and Egypt restricted movement for Gazans last summer when Hamas militants seized control of the region. The restriction of fuel, TreeHugger has reported earlier, has led to some positive ecological consequences: taxi drivers are making biodiesel from falafel oil.
Israel's recent June truce with Hamas (which allows limited commercial trade to continue) isn't enough for the Palestinians living in Gaza. It's the underground tunnels that fills the gaps.
There is a new demand for exotic animals: "like the lion and lioness that pace in a cage at the Rafah zoo. They were purchased as cubs from Egypt for $3,000 each, drugged and dragged through a tunnel in sacks. Zoo manager Shadi Fayiz said he went through a middleman to put in his order," reports AP.
A parrot who was slipped through the tunnel in a cage can ask for a kiss in Arabic; two monkeys brought in as babies live there, as do three gazelles. "It's just a matter of time until they make a tunnel an elephant can walk through," said Fayiz.
This TreeHugger has visited Gaza about 9 years ago, and well before the present-day sanctions had come into effect. The people, back then, lived in dire poverty; the streets were a mess. I can guess Gazans' desire for a zoo, gives them a feeling of normalcy, but I can only imagine how the animals are being treated. The video above doesn't calm any fears.
(Reuters: Gazans slaughter endangered sea turtle).
No More Zoos
For the record, this TreeHugger believes that animals should be left in the wild or in large animal reserves where they are free to roam. I think zoos are inhumane whether in Gaza, Israel or the United States. What do you think?
More Middle East animal stories:
Keeping Gorillas in our Midst
Tel Aviv University Zoo is City Safari on Foot
The Take on Plastic Bags in Israel