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."

 

Saudi, allies unveil Qatar 'terrorist' blacklist

Israel dismantles metal detectors from holy site

Trump says Syrian rebel aid program was 'dangerous and wasteful'

Iran gets more involved in Iraq militarily

600,000 Yemenis expected to contract cholera in 2017

14 Saudis face ‘imminent’ unfair execution says Amnesty

Rival Libyan leaders hold talks in France

Amnesty International urges EU to 'reset' Turkey relations

Erdogan urges Muslims to ‘protect’ Jerusalem

US sanctions protecting Iranian tech sector

Where Afghanistan is heading and what it means for the Arab Gulf

Air strike kills civilians in Syria despite truce

278 Europe-bound migrants rescued off Libya

Beirut, the upcoming start-up hub in MENA region

Cardinal hails 'rebirth' of Iraqi Christian town

Top UN delegation visits crisis-hit Yemen

Trump aide due in Israel to ease holy site tensions

Libya’s coastguard rescues 150 Europe-bound migrants

EU warns Turkey economy at risk in Germany row

Saudi crown prince takes temporary charge

Israel strikes Gaza after missile across border

Hezbollah says fight on Syria border ‘nearing end’

Staff of Turkey opposition paper stand trial

Tehran’s judiciary chief accuses US of jailing innocent Iranians

Palestinian arrested after attack in Tel Aviv

Maghreb future is tied to resolving Western Sahara conflict

MENA countries particularly vulnerable to climate change

UN-backed Libya PM to meet eastern strongman near Paris

Saudi Arabia and allies insist demands non-negotiable as GCC crisis continues

Netanyahu faces mounting pressure over holy site

Two Jordanians killed at Israeli embassy in Amman

Erdogan holds talks with Gulf leaders on Qatar crisis

Arab League accuses Israel of 'playing with fire' at holy site

Erdogan seeks to defuse standoff around Turkey’s Qatar

Syria warplanes strike near Damascus despite ceasefire

US warns Iran over imprisoned Americans

Kuwait protests to Lebanon over Hezbollah training

30 extremists in Sinai operations

Three Palestinians shot dead in Jerusalem

Nearly 360 injured in Turkey by magnitude 6.7 quake

UN says Saudi to blame for deadly Yemen strike on civilians

Police fire tear gas to disperse Morocco protest

Germany reviews arms sales to Turkey

Hezbollah launches Syria border operation

China calls for Gulf crisis talks