A Bengal tiger rescued from what activists have called “the worst zoo in the world” arrived and started his new life in South Africa on Thursday.
Laziz, who was Gaza’s last tiger, and other animals left the zoo in the Palestinian city of Khan Younis on Wednesday.
“When we decided to step in, it was a critical situation not only for Laziz but also for the other 14. What Four Paws did was to supply food for the animals until all the negotiations are sorted, until we can really act and take them out. So it was really a question of life and death,”said Loana Dungler, Four Paws director.
The tiger arrived in Johannesburg after a nine-hour flight from Israel, before beginning the next stage of his journey to LionsRock, a sanctuary for big cats deep in South Africa’s Free State province.
According to wildlife charity group Four Paws, the animals faced starvation or or the prospect of being traded or transferred somewhere else.
The Palestinian Khan Yunis zoo housed more than 100 animals when it opened in 2007, but with repeated wars and few visitors, the owners struggled to afford food and many of the animals starved to death.
The nearly two million residents of Gaza also struggle to get permits to travel outside of the strip, which has maintained a blockade on the enclave for a decade.
“It’s not very easy to provide proper food there because Gaza is under an embargo,” said Dungler. “Even for people getting the right food, it’s an effort.”
While his monkey, emu and porcupine co-habitants were sent to sanctuaries in nearby Israel and Jordan, Laziz (Arabic for “cutey”) was bound for more distant shores — some 6,700 kilometres (4,160 miles) away.