Lions Face Starvation in Gaza’s Last Remaining Zoo

Rafah, Palestine — Animals are dying and facing starvation in the last remaining zoo in the Gaza Strip as a result of Israel’s ongoing war on Gaza — backed by the U.S. and a handful of western European nations. In Ahmed Joumaa’s private zoo in Rafah, lions are living on dry bread and some animals have died because of the food scarcity in the Gaza Strip.

Ahmed Joumaa, the zoo’s owner, said they used to feed the lions 100 kg of frozen food daily and “now we struggle to provide as little as 10 kg” per week. The zoo houses monkeys, parrots, lions, dogs and other animals.

Gaza’s main zoo in Gaza City is closed and has been bombed several times by Israel, leaving a majority of the animals dead or starving to death. The other handful of zoos have faced a similar reality. The Rafah zoo was closed after the October 7 violence started. Joumaa then opened it up to dozens of his family and friends who’ve been internally displaced.

Israel’s most recent destructive and violent war on Gaza has killed over 24,000 Palestinians and internally displaced over 85% of the 2.2 million people in the small enclave. Along with the deaths are the physical and emotional impacts of displacement, the trauma of war and loss, and the destruction of over 60% of the houses.

Food, clothes and shelter are continuing to be harder to come by as winter strikes Gaza along with relentless bombings by Israel. On January 16, UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Michael Fakhri, said people are on the verge of famine. “We’ve never seen anything so brutal happen so quickly,” he said when referring to what’s happening in Gaza. Fakhri then said, an “entire generation of Palestinians” face “long-term limitations to their cognitive and physical ability” due to the malnutrition.

“Amidst the Zionist war on Gaza, most of the zoos in the Gaza Strip were lost. And Rafah’s zoo is the only remaining one. But due to ongoing war, the animals face endangerment as a result of the shortage of food, water, and medicine. As for the lions and other predators, we used to feed them on a daily basis, and now we can barely provide a meal once every week. The last resort we turn to is dry bread. Previously, we required nearly 100 kg of frozen food daily, now we struggle to provide as little as 10 kg.”

Ahmed Joumaa, Rafah zoo owner

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