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Relief for Animals at Libyan Zoo

Aid organizations arrive with vet care and supplies

At the height of the conflict, the 700 animals at the Tripoli Zoo had no food for a week. Water supplies had been cut off, too, leaving the hippos seriously dehydrated at the edge of their dried-up pond.

But now that the chaos has subsided, aid is flowing in. A team from Four Paws International is on the ground, and supplies and funds are arriving from other organizations, primarily the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Reporters watched as veterinarian Dr. Amir Khalil of Four Paws International, tended to a Siberian tiger who was lying injured on his side, covered in flies. Dr. Khalil was carefully giving him IV fluids, but the best he could do was comfort the big cat, who died later that day.

“He was old, 21 years. And there was a lot of stress in the surroundings here,” Dr. Khalil said.

Other animals have been more fortunate.

The sounds of war had been deafening. Bullet and shell casings still litter the ground at the zoo. There are giant holes in some of the roofs from artillery barrages. The animals are all traumatized.

But supplies are arriving, and the zoo’s director, Abdel-Fattah Husni, and the head zookeeper, Ibrahim Basha, are feeling more optimistic for the animals. Along with another dozen of the zoo’s staff, they came in every day during the fighting to do what they could to tend and comfort the animals.

“These animals are my family now. I can’t leave them.”

One other visitor was Al-Saadi Gadhafi, one of the sons of Muammar Gadhafi. Husni explained that Al-Saadi “owned” 19 of the lions at the zoo, and he came to see them every day until he fled the city – especially spending time with a 1-year-old cat named Hilal. The young lion responded warmly to the zoo director, too, closing his eyes in pleasure as Husni reached through the bars to pet him.

Husni added that Al-Saadi Gadhafi showed little interest in the other animals and did not visit them.

Another Gadhafi son, Saif al-Islam, had a private zoo at the Gadhafi compound, with big, grassy, outdoor enclosures and rocky outcroppings. This personal zoo housed lions, tigers, gazelles and many more, but when rebels entered the compound, the place was deserted and no animals were to be seen, except for a couple of peacocks.

Supplies arrive at the zoo for all the animals

Back at the Tripoli Zoo, Dr. Khalil was making plans for continuing care.

“We will start today systematic medical cares and gradual feeding up of 32 of the predators and launch an urgent search of feed for the antelope,” he said.

Water is now flowing at the zoo, and preparations are being made for medicines to arrive from Egypt and Tunisia.

There’s also enough food on the premises for the next week or two, and donations are being gathered for longer-term care.

Husni and Basha are hopeful that the nation’s new leadership will give a thought to the animals. Meanwhile, the two caregivers will do all they can. “These animals are my family now,” Basha said. “I can’t leave them.”

What you can do: Donations to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which is sending aid and supplies, are tax deductible. You can also donate to the Austrian organization, Four Paws, which has veterinary staff on the ground at the zoo.