Animal rescue group saves bear and lion left by ISIS to die in Iraq zoo
The rescue of a lion and a bear has brought some joy to residents of a war-torn region of Iraq.
The creatures were the last two surviving in a zoo located in the embattled city Mosul. The city had been controlled by Islamic State fighters, who transformed the zoo into a battleground.
The Islamic State is an extremist group attempting to set up its own country. It has also been called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The group's fighters have captured parts of Syria and some of northern and western Iraq.
Four Paws is an animal rescue organization. After one failed attempt to rescue a lion and bear from the zoo, Four Paws successfully brought Simba and Lula to their new home — an animal sanctuary in Jordan.
“We did it!!! WE SAVED LULA AND SIMBA!” Four Paws wrote last week on its Facebook page.
The months-long effort began in January in the eastern part of Mosul. The city had just recently been liberated from Islamic State fighters, who controlled it for two years until Iraqi-led forces drove the fighters out. Residents from Mosul sent Facebook messages to Four Paws asking it to help the two remaining animals at the zoo.
Islamic State fighters left behind mangled metal cages and the dead bodies of animals who had starved to death.
Second Rescue Attempt Was Successful
When veterinary surgeon Amir Khalil and his team arrived in February, Simba and Lula were in poor shape and living in filthy, cramped cages. The Four Paws team treated the animals and left food and medicine with the local residents, who cared for the animals until the doctors could return and remove the animals a month later.
In their first rescue attempt in March, the team tranquilized the lion and bear, and trucked them to the border of the city. They were stopped at a checkpoint and ultimately sent back to the zoo.
During their second attempt in early April, they were again stopped at the checkpoint. Amir Khalil, Four Paws’ team leader, said he was concerned about the security of his colleagues and of the animals, who were stuck in their small transport cages. “We were worried that the animals would die because of no water and no proper food. They were getting more tired every day.”
After nine days, the team finally cleared the border checkpoint and prepared the two animals for their final journey to Jordan. Khalil admitted he was nervous until they were safely on board the cargo plane.
A New Home For Lula And Simba
Lula and Simba are now relaxing and being checked for diseases at the New Hope Center for animal rehabilitation in Amman, Jordan. If all is well, in the next few weeks the creatures will move to the Al Ma’wa for Nature and Wildlife sanctuary, in the forested hills of northern Jordan, where they will spend the rest of their days.
The successful mission brought cheers of “Well done!” on the group’s Facebook page.
The Next Job Is Already Lined Up
Other commenters urged Four Paws to lend a hand with another desperate situation: The owners of the zoo in Aleppo, Syria, say they can no longer afford to feed the animals, as the city has been torn apart by violence in the Syrian civil war.
Four Paws is interested in helping, Khalil said, but it will take time to research the complicated political situation in the conflict zone and develop a rescue plan. This would require the cooperation of the local authorities.
“We cannot give too many promises” at this point, he said, but the organization will do its best.