For sale: The animals from Gaza’s decaying zoo
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The animals in Gaza’s zoo are in poor shape. The Israeli blockade, which has been going on for several years, and the conflict in 2014 have weakened the local economy and Gaza residents no longer have the means to undertake leisure activities like visiting a zoo, according to its owner. He has decided to sell his few remaining animals.
"I am also open to any NGO that would take care of the animals”Mohammed Aweda is the owner of the zoological park, which is located in Khan Younis in southern Gaza.
Since the Gaza war in 2014, more than 200 animals have died in this park. I lost a lion, crocodiles, pelicans and monkeys, amongst many others. I lost many rare species from Africa and Latin America, which I had originally smuggled in through the tunnels at the Egyptian border.
I only have about a dozen animals left and I am trying to sell them. I have an ostrich, a deer, a chimpanzee and a pelican. I also have a tiger who I really need to sell because his upkeep is so expensive. I spend $60 a day just to feed the tiger even though I haven’t had a visitor in two months.
The tiger is malnourished. For the past six days, I’ve only been able to give him 8 kilogrammes of meat even though he should be eating 25 kilogrammes a day. I’m currently trying to sell him for $30,000. If possible, I’d like to sell him just to make back a bit of the more than one million dollars I invested in the zoo over the years.
"People don’t have money for tickets to the zoo”
People no longer have the money to buy tickets to the zoo, which cost about 3 shekels (Editor’s note: Equivalent to €0.70). When we first opened in 2007, that wasn’t the case. School groups often came to visit. Many families came as well. We organised musical performances and all different kinds of activities at the zoo. At the time, 13 members of my family worked at the zoo and we had 14 employees who cared for and fed the animals.
Mohamed Aweda plays with one of the few monkeys left at the zoo.
During the Gaza war in 2008, Israeli bombs fell on our zoo, killing about 40 animals. Despite that loss, we managed to reopen. We also reopened after the war in 2012. But after the Israeli offensive in 2014, the number of visitors dropped significantly and we had to let go of all of our employees.
When the animals started dying off [from hunger and disease], I decided to embalm some of them myself, including a lion, a hyena, a chimpanzee and some of the crocodiles. I had the idea that I might be able to display some of them. But I haven’t mastered the technique and I didn’t have the right products, so they started decomposing.
I’m currently trying to sell all my remaining animals. But I’m also open to any help from an NGO that could assist me with feeding and caring for them.
Close to 2,200 Palestinians are thought to have died in the war with Israel in the summer of 2014. According to NGOs, most were civilians, including hundreds of children. On the Israeli side, 73 people died, 67 of whom were soldiers.
All the photos were provided by Mohamed Aweda.