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Asharq Al-Awsat
Asharq Al-Awsat
Asharq Al-Awsat

Zoo Animals Struggle in War-torn Yemen

A trainer cares for a lion cub in Sanaa zoo, where hundreds of animals face an uncertain face amid the country's gruelling war. AFP

Yemen's war makes life a daily struggle for millions of civilians, but creatures in the country's neglected zoos, including lions, leopards and baboons also face an uncertain future.

At the country's main zoo in Sanaa, the capital seized in 2014 by the Iran-backed Houthi militias who control much of the north, a man unloaded one of a dozen dead donkeys trucked in each day to feed 31 resident lions.

Among those fighting on behalf of the animals is Kim-Michelle Broderick, founder of One World Actors Animal Rescues, which raises funds to keep Yemen's zoo creatures alive.

Of the country's three main zoos, the one in Sanaa is in better condition than others in the cities of Taez and Ibb, she said, but added all are in poor condition, AFP reported.

"The public authorities are destitute because of the war," she said. "The animals are underfed or hardly fed, or not fed at all in the case of Ibb zoo."

For his part, Lion keeper Amin al-Majdi said some animals, including four lions that perished in 2017, have already starved to death.

"We import meat from all provinces of the country, but we are struggling with this because of the increase in the price of donkeys," he noted.

"We used to slaughter three or four donkeys for six lions, now with 31 we have to slaughter 10 to 12 donkeys."

Like the rest of the country, where millions have been driven to the brink of famine after five years of conflict, the zoo's 1,159 animals, which include two critically endangered Arabian leopards, are at risk.

With the help of coordinators on the ground, the organization conducts rescues across Yemen, distributes emergency food and water, and provides basic veterinary treatment to horses, other farm animals and strays, according to Broderick.

The lions in Sanaa zoo look relatively healthy compared to big cats in other regional zoos, where emaciated animals have elicited outrage.

Sanaa zoo authorities said they are struggling to feed their animals, with rampant inflation making supplies expensive, and the number of visitors plummeting since the war broke out.

"We are facing a lot of challenges," the zoo's deputy director Mohammed Abu Aoun told AFP. "

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