KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip -- There is an afterlife for animals at the Khan Younis zoo in the impoverished Gaza Strip.

Animals who die in the dilapidated park return to be displayed as stuffed creatures, giving visitors the unusual zoo experience of petting a lion, tiger or crocodile. But because taxidermy in the largely isolated Palestinian territory is not advanced and expertise and materials are in short supply, the experience can be grim.



Flies swarm around some of the 10 animals that have been embalmed so far. The makeshift cages housing the exhibits - fashioned from fencing salvaged from Jewish settlements that Israel dismantled in 2005 - are littered with empty soda cans and other trash.

An emaciated-looking stuffed lion, its coat patchy and mangy, lies on an exhibit cobbled together from crates and shipping pallets. A monkey had missing limbs. A porcupine had a hole in its head.



The zoo's 65 live animals, which include ostriches, monkeys, turtles, deer, a llama, a lion and a tiger, don't fare much better. During a recent visit, children poked chocolate, potato chips and bread through the wire. There's no zookeeper on the premises. Gaza has no government body that oversees zoos, and medical treatment is done by consulting over the phone with zoo veterinarians in Egypt.

Still, the zoo is one of the few places of entertainment here in Khan Younis, a city of 200,000 people at the southern end of the Gaza Strip. It's one of five zoos in the Gaza Strip, a densely populated coastal enclave of 1.7 million people ruled by Islamic Hamas militants.

Owner Mohammed Awaida said he opened the "South Forest Park" in 2007, only to lose a number of animals during Israel's military offensive against Hamas that began in December 2008. During the three-week offensive, launched in response to rocket attacks on Israel, Awaida said he could not reach the zoo, and many animals died of neglect and starvation.

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  1. Terence Says:

    Awesome and lovely post.


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