The South Forest Zoo opened on the Gaza Strip in 2007, just three months after Israel tightened its blockade of the region. While populating it wasn’t easy - the zoo’s tiger had to be smuggled in from Egypt through underground tunnels - keeping it open through years of conflict has proved to be even more challenging. Food for the animals is expensive, their illnesses are treated over the phone by vets in Egypt, and after dozens of animals died during Israel’s 3 week-long military offensive in response to attacks by Hamas in 2008, the zoo was forced to get creative to keep attracting visitors.
For zookeeper Mohamed Owida, the answer was taxidermy. “This type of lion was very difficult to get hold of, so I was determined to stuff it.” he was quoted saying to The Guardian about a lion that was killed in 2009. “The process for stuffing the lion was first to open its stomach and remove all its internal organs. I then put a metal rod through its mouth and poured in formaldehyde. Then I put in marbles - the kind that kids play with.” South Forest Zoo currently displays more preserved animals than live ones.
Another zoo in Gaza, the Marah Land Zoo made international headlines when it replaced dead zebras with donkeys that had been painted black and white. Deterred by the high cost of smuggling a new zebra through the tunnels, the zoo chose to use masking tape and black hair dye on two white donkeys. The zoo has since shut down because of financial losses.
Out of the six zoos that were in Gaza before 2007, only four remain open.
Image: IlNasoPrecario via Creative Commons
FALLOUT is a series of blog posts that explore the side-effects of war.