First Published: 2017-04-11

Mosul zoo lion, bear flown out of Iraq
Simba, Lula, ailing last two residents of Mosul zoo will receive emergency care from Four Paws International in Jordan.
Middle East Online

Simba the lion will have a better life

MOSUL - Simba the lion and Lula the bear, the ailing last two residents of Mosul zoo, were flown out of Iraq Monday to receive emergency care from an animal welfare group.

A group of veterinarians from the Four Paws International charity took the animals out of war-battered Mosul and after many administrative delays finally managed to fly them out to Jordan from the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Arbil.

"We're in the plane with the animals, we're leaving now," said Amir Khalil, a 52-year-old Egyptian-Austrian vet who headed the Four Paws mission.

The doctor found the pair covered in dirt and excrement in February, abandoned in their cages at the privately owned zoo in the eastern half of Mosul.

Iraqi forces launched a massive operation to retake the city, Iraq's second largest, from the Islamic State group in October and spent weeks battling the jihadists street by street before eventually retaking the east bank in January.

When Four Paws reached the zoo, nobody had entered the cages in weeks and no other animals apart from the female bear and the male lion had survived.

When Khalil and his team came back to the region in late March, they had one goal which was to remove the animals temporarily from Iraq so they could receive proper veterinary care.

- 'Most complicated mission' -

"I'm a vet -- I have to look after these animals," said Khalil, a kind of "roving war zone veterinarian".

"They are refugees. It's our duty to take them to a sanctuary."

It was supposed to be a formality, but it took Khalil and his team two weeks to finally squeeze the right paperwork out of the administrative confusion that prevails in post-jihadist Mosul.

In late March, Khalil had put the two beasts to sleep, taken them out of their filthy cages on stretchers and loaded them aboard a truck using a crane, hoping to be on an aircraft in a matter of hours.

The thud of artillery fire across the river was a reminder that while eastern Mosul had been fully reconquered by the federal forces, the area was still a war zone.

As the animal welfare team cautiously extracted the animals from the abandoned zoo, Ahmed Manhel looked on.

"I wouldn't mind receiving some care myself," the 18-year-old had said, leaning on two wooden crutches.

He lost his right leg in an explosion in November.

"I need to leave this place, I need a prosthetic leg," the young Iraqi said, moments before the truck carrying the animals departed for Arbil.

The truck was stopped at a checkpoint, however, and a second evacuation attempt the following day also failed.

The two animals remained on a dusty roadside for nine days before the necessary permits were secured.

The lion developed a respiratory problem as a result of the delay.

"This has probably been our most complicated mission," said Yavor Gechev, from the Four Paws group which has done similar work in the Gaza Strip, in Egypt during the Arab Spring and in Libya.

Before the plane finally took off, doctor Khalil was relieved.

"This is the beginning of a new life for the animals," he said. "From now on, they won't have to be part of this war."

 

Turkey warns Syria against protecting Kurds

Two hardline Syria rebels announce merger

IS kills 25 Iraqi militiamen near Kirkuk

Sudan frees dozens of activists detained after protests

Saudi Arabia to host first Arab Fashion Week

Somalia appoints new police, intelligence chiefs

Iran plane crash rescue search halted for second night

France reaffirms commitment to Iran nuclear deal

Abbas warms up to Moscow amid cold US-Palestinian ties

Israel strikes 'historic' gas contract with Egypt

Are Iranian satellite channels aiding regime change?

Israel pounds Gaza with air strikes after rocket attack

Iraq orders deportation of French jihadist

Pro-Assad militias to enter Syria's Afrin

Three Egyptian soldiers killed in Sinai

Israeli, US officials meet over gas row with Lebanon

Iran's supreme leader says progress needed on justice

Syria Kurds claim striking positions in Turkey

Netanyahu warns Iran, brandishes piece of metal

66 feared dead as plane crashes in Iranian mountains

Saudi women to open businesses without male permission

Netanyahu slams 'outrageous' Holocaust remark by Polish PM

Israeli air strikes kill 2 in Gaza

Six suffer breathing difficulties after Turkish shelling in Afrin

Russian mercenaries - a discrete weapon in Syria

Iran protests ban on wrestler who threw bout to avoid Israel

Fears of expanding Syrian war could trigger peace deal

Battle to free Mosul of IS 'intellectual terrorism'

Turkey frees Garman-Turk journalist after one year without charge

Turkey hands life sentences to 3 journalists for Gulen links

Turkey, US agree to ‘work together’ in Syria

Thousands protest corruption in Tel Aviv amid PM indictment call

Prominent jihadist commander killed by rival Syria rebels

300 Russians killed in Syria battle last week

Tillerson, Erdogan have ‘productive, open’ talk

Iran raises rates, freezes accounts in bid to shore up rial

Kremlin says five Russians killed in US Syria strikes

Oman FM in rare visit by Arab official to Jerusalem

Senior IS leader extradited to Iraq from Turkey

Strikes hit another hospital in Syria's Idlib

Churches snub Jerusalem reception over tax dispute with Israeli authorities

Tillerson says US never gave 'heavy arms' to Kurdish YPG

Captured foreign IS suspects claim innocence

Yemeni mother awaits death penalty for spying for UAE

Fuel shortage shuts down Gaza's only power plant