First Published: 2017-04-11

Mosul zoo lion, bear flown out of Iraq
Simba, Lula, ailing last two residents of Mosul zoo will receive emergency care from Four Paws International in Jordan.
Middle East Online

Simba the lion will have a better life

MOSUL - Simba the lion and Lula the bear, the ailing last two residents of Mosul zoo, were flown out of Iraq Monday to receive emergency care from an animal welfare group.

A group of veterinarians from the Four Paws International charity took the animals out of war-battered Mosul and after many administrative delays finally managed to fly them out to Jordan from the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Arbil.

"We're in the plane with the animals, we're leaving now," said Amir Khalil, a 52-year-old Egyptian-Austrian vet who headed the Four Paws mission.

The doctor found the pair covered in dirt and excrement in February, abandoned in their cages at the privately owned zoo in the eastern half of Mosul.

Iraqi forces launched a massive operation to retake the city, Iraq's second largest, from the Islamic State group in October and spent weeks battling the jihadists street by street before eventually retaking the east bank in January.

When Four Paws reached the zoo, nobody had entered the cages in weeks and no other animals apart from the female bear and the male lion had survived.

When Khalil and his team came back to the region in late March, they had one goal which was to remove the animals temporarily from Iraq so they could receive proper veterinary care.

- 'Most complicated mission' -

"I'm a vet -- I have to look after these animals," said Khalil, a kind of "roving war zone veterinarian".

"They are refugees. It's our duty to take them to a sanctuary."

It was supposed to be a formality, but it took Khalil and his team two weeks to finally squeeze the right paperwork out of the administrative confusion that prevails in post-jihadist Mosul.

In late March, Khalil had put the two beasts to sleep, taken them out of their filthy cages on stretchers and loaded them aboard a truck using a crane, hoping to be on an aircraft in a matter of hours.

The thud of artillery fire across the river was a reminder that while eastern Mosul had been fully reconquered by the federal forces, the area was still a war zone.

As the animal welfare team cautiously extracted the animals from the abandoned zoo, Ahmed Manhel looked on.

"I wouldn't mind receiving some care myself," the 18-year-old had said, leaning on two wooden crutches.

He lost his right leg in an explosion in November.

"I need to leave this place, I need a prosthetic leg," the young Iraqi said, moments before the truck carrying the animals departed for Arbil.

The truck was stopped at a checkpoint, however, and a second evacuation attempt the following day also failed.

The two animals remained on a dusty roadside for nine days before the necessary permits were secured.

The lion developed a respiratory problem as a result of the delay.

"This has probably been our most complicated mission," said Yavor Gechev, from the Four Paws group which has done similar work in the Gaza Strip, in Egypt during the Arab Spring and in Libya.

Before the plane finally took off, doctor Khalil was relieved.

"This is the beginning of a new life for the animals," he said. "From now on, they won't have to be part of this war."

 

Kurds ready for contentious vote in Iraq

The high cost of Syria’s destruction

Iran defies US, tests missile

Yemen's Hadi says military solution 'most likely'

The Sahara Forest Project, Jordan’s innovative water scheme

Palestinian negotiator awaits lung transplant in US

A Kurdish state: Reality or utopia?

Saudi intercepts missile fired from Yemen

Saudi Arabia marks national day with fireworks, concerts

Turkey warns of 'security' steps in response to Iraqi Kurd vote

Barzani delays Kurdish independence vote announcement

Syria's war off the radar at UN assembly

For many Iraqis, tradition trumps police

Darfur clashes kill 3 as Bashir urges reconciliation

Saudi cleric banned for saying women have ‘quarter’ brain

Veteran Syrian activist, daughter assassinated in Istanbul

Tunisia drops forced anal exams for homosexuality

Bomb used in Saudi-led strike on Yemen children US-made

Syria Kurds vote to cement federal push

Police charge teenager over London Underground attack

Nigerian official to meet Turkish counterpart over illegal guns

Thousands feared trapped in Raqa as IS mounts last stand

Iraqi forces achieve first step in new offensive on IS

Migrant boat sinks off Turkish Black Sea coast leaving four dead, 20 missing

Trump praises 'friend' Erdogan

Yemen leader promises UN to open entire country to aid

Rouhani vows Iran will boost missiles despite US criticism

Russia clashes with EU over Syria

UN Security Council warns against holding Iraqi Kurd vote

UN sets up probe of IS war crimes in Iraq

US, Iranian top diplomats confront each other for first time

Air strikes kill 22 civilians in northwest Syria in 48 hours

Iranian supreme leader lashes out at Trump UN speech

Thousands of Huthi supporters mark 3 years since Sanaa takeover

Iraq attacks all remaining IS territory at once

Moscow accuses US of hitting Syrian regime forces

Turkey jails lawyers representing hunger striking teachers

Turkey, Iran and Iraq make joint threat against Kurd vote

Syrian Kurds to hold first local elections in federal push

Qatari expats lauded as statesmen by Arab critics

Shipwreck off Libyan coast leaves over 100 migrants missing

Will Turkey’s opposition to Kurdish state translate into action?

US ups the ante on Iraq Kurds

Macron: Iran nuclear deal no longer enough

Trump’s mind made up on Iran but refuses to divulge