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TWO LION CUBS RESCUED IN GAZA

BOSTON, July 6, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- VIENNA/AMMAN- 06.07.2015 – Huge relief for the FOUR PAWS team and its supporters: Sunday afternoon the animal welfare workers could finally take the lion cubs from the crisis area and cross the last border post on their way to Israel. The journey of the young big cats is now almost complete. On the same evening, they were released to an outdoor enclosure at the transit station in Jordan. In autumn, the animals (together with other wild animals) will be released at the sanctuary Al Ma'wa for Nature and Wildlife.





FOUR PAWS, the international animal welfare organisation, has worked on this planned rescue in detail for weeks. On Thursday an emergency rescue team under the lead of Dr. Amir Khalil finally reached Gaza from Amman via Israel. Despite the available entry permits there were long waiting periods on the side of the de facto regime of the Gaza Strip. After hours of negotiations the majority of the team were not allowed to pass, team leader Dr. Khalil decided not to separate the team and spend the night in the so called no-man's-land.

The next morning, a small part of the FOUR PAWS team, who were authorised by the Hamas, entered the Gaza Strip to negotiate with the owner ofthe lion cubs in the refugee camp for one last time and collect the young big cats. Khalil is relieved: "It was very hard for the father of the family, who bought the lion cubs from Rafah zoo in March, to say goodbye, but we are very happy that he finally sees reason. A small flat is not an appropriate place for wild animals and they pose a danger to all humans in their surroundings." After the hand-over of the animals, the female being weak and apathetic, received new names: Shalom and Salam. The brave "bringers of peace" spent most of their time huddled together closely. "They didn't really realise the whole turmoil evolving around them", said Khalil.

At the planned exit to Israel on Friday morning the Israeli officials abruptly closed the border. The team on site remained calm and patient. After long negotiations with the Hamas, all team members, together with Shalom and Salam, were allowed back to Gaza, where they spent the night at a hotel.

On Sunday afternoon there was finally certainty: FOUR PAWS could pass the last border post to Israel and they continued their travel to Jordan. A first medical check showed that Shalom and Salam suffer from a skin disease, the female (Shalom) additionally has swelling on the back of her head, which probably derives from a stroke. In the "New Hope Center", the transit station of Al Ma'wa Wildlife Sanctuary in Jordan, the five month old lions will undergo a more thorough medical examination.

A rescue action such as the one for the Gaza lion cubs involves extensive effort and accumulates high costs. This mission has been especially supported by a married couple from Austria. Only thanks to the numerous sponsors is it possible for FOUR PAWS to provide help and assistance in a quick, efficient and professional way.

Although Gaza is small, there are around 40 big cats there. Smuggling of exotic animals is a major problem. Even Shalom's and Salam's parents are said to have been smuggled to Rafah Zoo as cubs, by underground tunnels from Egypt into Gaza. However, military conflict last year saw the Egyptian army destroy many of the tunnels.

This is not FOUR PAWS' first operation in the Middle East: in September 2014 the organisation carried out an emergency mission in the heavily-damaged Al-Bisan Zoo in the north of the Gaza Strip, and three lions were also transferred to New Hope Center in Jordan. In April, a FOUR PAWS emergency team carried out a relief operation to provide medical treatment and food to the animals in the run-down Khan Younis Zoo in Gaza.

#FOURPAWSgowild

Around the world thousands of big cats are forced to live and suffer in circuses, ill-conditioned zoos, or in private hands. Many are kept in extremely cramped conditions, are incorrectly or insufficiently fed, are ill, or exhibit behavioural disorders. FOUR PAWS aims to improve the situation for these fascinating but also dangerous wild animals. One of the facilities run by the organization is the unique Big Cat Sanctuary LIONSROCK in South Africa, which now offers a species-appropriate home to over a hundred lions and tigers from poorly kept conditions. FOUR PAWS also runs far-reaching campaigns for big cats in human care, including campaigning for a ban on wild animals in circuses, and the closure of inadequate zoos.

With #FOURPAWSgowild, people concerned with animal welfare bring into focus both animal suffering and solutions for it. Under the disguise of entertainment (circuses), education (zoos), medicine/tradition (healing substances made from tiger bones), and sport (trophy hunting in Africa) thousands of big cats in Europe, South Africa and the USA lead miserable lives in appalling conditions. The international #FOURPAWSgowild campaign gives them a voice.

Pictures from the rescue can be downloaded here:
https://ftp.vier-pfoten.org/?u=QDQ7PNqO &p=t9NETdez
https://ftp.vier-pfoten.org/?u=umCQzeK3 &p=UGbN6HeX

VP_2015-07-03_001, VIER PFOTEN_2015-07-03_013 = © FOUR PAWS | 2015
Others: © FOUR PAWS | Tom Benda

Photos accompanying this release are available at:
http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=34256
http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=34257

CONTACT: Claire LaFrance Head of Communications FOUR PAWS International 6 Beacon St, Suite # 1110 Boston, MA 02108 office: +1 (617) 942-1233 mail: claire.lafrance@four-paws.us web: www.four-paws.us Skype: Claire02554Source: FourPaws International