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FOUR PAWS starts bold rescue mission in Syria


First group of suffering animals were evacuated from a zoo close to Aleppo


Brussels, 21.07.2017 - The international animal welfare organization FOUR PAWS has once again launched a high-risk rescue operation in the Middle East. In collaboration with security experts, nine abandoned animals were evacuated from the amusement park "Magic World" located in the crisis area around Aleppo. Despite intense battles in Syria in the recent days, the truck with starving and suffering tigers, bears, lions and hyenas managed to reach the Syria-Turkey border. From there, the animals have started their journey to an animal rescue center in Karacabey close to the city of Bursa, where they will temporarily stay to receive proper medical treatment. More wild animals are still trapped in the destroyed zoo and are expected to arrive at the border in the coming days.

© FOUR PAWS | Jasmine Duthie

After their successful operation in Mosul, Iraq, three months ago, the international animal welfare organization FOUR PAWS has started its next mission in a warzone. This time the lives of several animals, including three lions (two females and one male), two tigers (one female and one male), two Asian black bears (one female and one male) and two hyenas (one female and one male), from a neglected zoo near Aleppo in Syria, are at risk. "The ongoing war has taken its toll on the animals. The lack of water, food and veterinary care has left the animals physically and psychologically traumatized.



Several animals were also killed by severe bombings. There was no way for them to escape from this deadly trap. With our mission, we want to spread the message that humanity cannot be divided and that these suffering animals deserve to be heard and seen", says FOUR PAWS veterinarian and head of the mission Dr. Amir Khalil. So, it was clear to him that they had to leave the zoo as soon as possible: "The ever-deteriorating situation of the animals worried us. Also, wild animals such as bears and big cats, trapped in desolate enclosures, can quickly pose a threat to humans.”



Collaboration with experienced security experts on site

Due to ongoing battles, operating in Syria is extremely dangerous. In the last days, intense fighting and clashes took place around Aleppo, Idlib and Afrin. Hence, FOUR PAWS decided to cooperate with international security experts who are familiar with this region. With the permission of the zoo owner, who fled to the United States five years ago, the security team entered the zoo together with local veterinarians. The animals were loaded into the cages on the transport trucks and taken to the Syria-Turkey border, where they were handed over to FOUR PAWS. "The safety of the people on the ground, our team and the animals are the main priority. That is why we trust in the expertise of international safety advisors. We are glad that the first animals have been taken out of the zoo and transferred to a safer area”, says Dr. Khalil. However, more animals are still trapped in the amusement park "Magic World". Depending on the development of the difficult situation around Aleppo, FOUR PAWS expects the remaining animals to arrive at the border in the upcoming days.

© FOUR PAWS | Jasmine Duthie

A better future for the yet nameless animals

The first rescued animals are all exhausted and dehydrated. Some of them suffer from minor wounds but no serious injuries. The FOUR PAWS team provided them with water and immediately, the animals began to feel better. They have started their journey, which has been supported by Turkish animal welfare activists, to an animal protection center in Karacabey close to the city of Bursa. As soon as all animals will have arrived there, FOUR PAWS will start the medical treatment. Once their health condition allows, the former zoo animals will be transferred to a new and species-appropriate home. The exact location depends on the state of the animals. Dr. Amir Khalil, who had evacuated an entire zoo in Gaza in 2016 and has recently rescued a lion and a bear from a zoo in Mosul, says: "FOUR PAWS has its own high-standard animal rescue centers, for example in Jordan, South Africa and the Netherlands. They are all possible options but first we must observe the health development of the saved animals. Only then can we decide which place is the right one."

Financial aid from an American major donor

American Eric Margolis financially supports FOUR PAWS challenging rescue mission. The journalist and businessman has been actively promoting animal protection for decades. "War affects the most innocent: children, women, and families, trying to escape from the horrors. These animals, however, are locked in barren cages and surrounded by daily bombings and gunfire. They have nowhere to run. Their survival depends on this rescue”, explains Margolis.


FOUR PAWS set up a donation page, where animal lovers from all over the world can help to provide a better future to the animals from Aleppo:






Regular updates about the mission can also be found on the FOUR PAWS channels:

© FOUR PAWS | Jasmine Duthie