Animals Go Hungry at War-Torn Gaza Zoo

Lions are seen in their cage at the zoo in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on Jan. 2.

RAFAH, Palestine (AFP-Jiji) — Hunger is everywhere at Rafah zoo, in Gaza’s far south, as internally displaced Palestinians seek shelter from the war between cages and animals die of starvation.

“The situation is very tragic, there’s no food, water, medicine, or anything,” its owner Ahmed Jumaa said, a parrot perched on his shoulder.

The World Health Organization has warned of the risk of famine and disease, with only a minimal amount of aid entering the Palestinian territory nearly three months into the fighting between Israel and Hamas militants.

And with Israel’s relentless bombardment driving ever more Gazans south to Rafah, near the Egyptian border, Jumaa opened his doors to those in need.

“The zoo was closed after the war, but we opened it to host displaced family and friends,” Jumaa said.

The newcomers have set up makeshift tents between the cages and hung their colorful clothing on laundry lines in view of pacing lions and emaciated monkeys.

As the adults cook whatever food they can find, children peer through the bars at the animals — many of whom are going hungry.

“Food is not available, and some animals have died,” Jumaa said.

“The lioness gave birth, but we couldn’t provide food for it, so the cubs died,” he added. “And the same thing happened with the monkeys and the birds.”

The shortages have forced the zoo to get creative just to keep the animals alive.

“Our last method was to bring them dry bread and wet it with water to get by,” Jumaa said.

“We also try to bring [them] something from here and there.”

Jumaa said the zoo is awaiting assistance from animal welfare organizations.

For some of the animals, it may be their last hope.