As Iraqi government forces continue to gain ground against Islamic State fighters in the city of Mosul, a rescue mission is underway to save two animals – a lion and a bear from the war-torn city’s zoo.
Simba the lion and Lula the bear are the only two surviving animals at the ISIS controlled zoo. Most of the animals are the zoo were either killed or died of starvation during the recent offensive by Iraqi forces to retake the eastern part of the city from the Islamic State.
Now, in a rescue mission that is as dangerous as it is dramatic, international animal charity Four Paws have sent in a rapid response team to treat the animals and remove them to safety.
The Four Paws team were granted access to the zoo at the end of last month, and were able to provide food and urgent veterinary care to Simba and Lula. Dr Amir Khalil led the team, and said that he found the animals to be exhausted and in a disastrous state. “Although alive, both animals look miserable and are suffering from many diseases caused by malnutrition and a lack of veterinary care.”
After their initial contact with the animals, the Four Paws team began working on removing the animals to safety. Their aim is to move them both to a sanctuary in Jordan, called Al Ma’wa for Nature and Wildlife. The sanctuary houses other lions and a Syrian brown bear, which could give the Mosul animals a chance to socialise again.
Last week, Iraqi forces cleared a time slot of a few hours to allow the rescue works to enter the zoo and transport Simba and Lula out. Up until April 3 the team were held up at check points and were initially detained at the border, with the team being told they were unable to exit Mosul with the two rescued animals. They posted an update on their Facebook page, saying that they were meeting authorities in Mosul City, who were offering their support. “We hope that we can finally add the happy ending!” they said.
We will update you as the story progresses.