EMERGENCY: Yemen is Letting Its Zoo Animals Starve to Death

MALNOURISHED LION IN YEMEN ZOO.

On this site we’re committed to sharing news related to preserving rare and endangered species, including the white race.

It’s white people, one woman in particular, who are trying to save a rare and endangered leopard that primarily resides in a Yemeni zoo, along with all the other zoo animals. All of them are starving to death in war-torn Yemen.

National Geographic

The 265 animals in Yemen’s Taiz Zoo, including rare leopards, haven’t been fed for days. The government is rejecting proposals to save them.

War births refugees. Streaming out of blasted-out cities, civilians are forced to flee their homes, sometimes their families, away from the bombs, into the unknown.

What happens when you can’t leave? That’s the story of abandoned zoos in wartime. It’s the story unfolding now for the animals in Yemen’s Taiz Zoological Gardens, neglected in the cross fire of the country’s civil war. Here 28 Arabian leopards, critically endangered in the wild, haven’t eaten in six days. They and nearly 240 other animals face imminent death if they aren’t fed very soon.

The story began early this year when the Yemeni government, which runs the zoo, stopped paying the staff and abandoned the facility in the face of escalating violence. In February, after a media flurry drew international attention to the deteriorating conditions at the zoo, SOS Zoo and Bear Rescue—a rescue organization established on Facebook by Chantal Jonkergouw—began raising funds to cover the cost of food, water, and care for the animals. According to Jonkergouw, who lives in Sweden, SOS has raised more than $125,000 from individual donors during the past ten months.

CHANTAL JONKERGOUW.

On November 30 she made the agonizing decision to stop feeding the animals until the government agrees to release them to rescuers. She says they’re still getting fresh water every day.

A local Good Samaritan then stepped in to bring the leopards and other meat eaters food, but he hasn’t been seen since December 16—the last time the carnivores were fed. The zoo’s herbivores have been subsisting on a rapidly diminishing supply of rotten vegetables. According to Bassam Al-Hakimi, SOS’s project manager in Taiz, many of the animals are showing signs of extreme weakness.

The Taiz zoo became an overlooked casualty of the war after the government lost control of the city and many zoo workers fled the bombings and food shortages that have plagued the region.

According to Jonkergouw, before SOS intervened on February, 11 lions and six Arabian leopards had starved to death. “One leopard had eaten its female companion,” she says. The surviving animals were found living in squalor on bare concrete, bloodied, with festering abscesses, feces everywhere. One drastically malnourished lion was found with his hip bone jutting through his skin. Emergency surgery saved his life, barely.

ARABIAN LEOPARDS.

Other animals in the zoo include hyenas, monkeys, birds, porcupines, baboons, and guinea pigs. Many of the creatures have displayed signs of severe zoochosis—a condition that often afflicts animals kept captive in artificial environments and is characterized by obsessive, repetitive behaviors.

The Yemeni government, which now has limited sway in Taiz, has denied the transfer permits that might at least give the animals a chance of being extracted from Houthi territory and brought to another country where they would have hope for long-term survival.

SOS has kept the animals alive at a cost of $4,000 a week, covering food and care and modest salaries for a small staff of six, Jonkergouw says. SOS had just $10,000 left when at the end of last month she decided to cut off the food supplies.

The Princess Alia Foundation in Jordan and the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife in the United Arab Emirates, in conjunction with that country’s Al Ain Zoo, have both said they’d take the animals. It could cost up to $500,000 USD to evacuate the zoo, which would require armed guards to ensure safe exit. Jonkergouw is confident that her organization and others could raise the money with aid from NGOs but emphasizes that Yemen first needs to agree to facilitate an evacuation.

Yemeni government officials have told Jonkergouw that they won’t entertain either offer. “They replied that they will never let the animals out of Yemen and that the animals were well cared for and doing fine. And then I really got pissed,” Jonkergouw says. “I said, why are they fine? I raised $125,000 and paid most of that into this project without getting any real cooperation on a sustainable solution for these animals. So I’m fed up with this. I will stop.”

There are likely only about 80 wild Arabian leopards left on the planet. The Taiz Zoo has 28, including two cubs born in September. Jonkergouw believes Yemen is reluctant to send the cats to another country, even temporarily, because Arabian leopards, as the national animal, are a source of deep pride.

Any loss of Arabian leopards is devastating, given how rare the species is. Four cubs disappeared from the zoo shortly after SOS stepped in. Zoo officials at the time said they were probably eaten. Jonkergouw raises the possibility that they were stolen and sold on the black market. (The Arabian peninsula has a sizable black market for exotic cats as pets.) After that incident she arranged for a full-time armed guard for the leopards.

“Probably more leopards have to die before they realize that they have to evacuate them,” she says.

Anyone expert in crafting change.org petitions should work up a petition to gin up interest in America in the plight of these sad animals. This is outside my area of expertise.

Learn more about the Arabian leopard at Wikipedia.

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