Animals evacuated to Turkey from 'neglected' Syria zoo

Members of a rapid response team of FOUR PAWS transports a lioness in Cobanbey, after it was rescued from the destroyed Magic World amusement park near Aleppo.
Members of a rapid response team of FOUR PAWS transports a lioness in Cobanbey, after it was rescued from the destroyed Magic World amusement park near Aleppo.PHOTO: AFP/FOUR PAWS

ISTANBUL (AFP) - An international animal welfare charity was on Friday (July 28) completing the evacuation of a dozen animals stranded in a neglected zoo in the conflict-torn Aleppo province of northern Syria.

The Four Paws group was seeking to move two lions and two domestic dogs from the "Magic World" zoo and amusement park in Syria over the border into Turkey and then to an animal protection centre in the north of the country, a spokesman for the charity told AFP.

A Four Paws team is currently at the border close to the town of Kilis, with the remaining animals expected to arrive shortly before being transported to their new home on Saturday, said spokesman Martin Bauer.

In an initial operation, Four Paws said it had on July 21 evacuated nine animals - three lions, two tigers, two Asian black bears and two hyenas - from the "neglected" Magic World.

After a one-day journey, they arrived safely at their new home, an animal protection facility in Karacabey, outside the north-western Turkish city of Bursa.

"The nine animals currently treated in Karacabey are doing fine. The last years have taken quite a toll on them but they're on their way to recovery," said Bauer.

He confirmed that with the evacuation of the last four animals on Friday "there will be no more animals left at the zoo in the Magic World amusement park."

Once all the rescued animals are out of Syria, the organisation will decide where their final homes should be, partially based on the health of the animals.

"Four Paws has some very good options with its own animal sanctuaries, including in Jordan, South Africa and the Netherlands," said the charity's veterinarian and head of the mission Amir Khalil.

"We will individually decide which place is most suitable for each animal."