Four lion cubs died from the cold in a Gaza zoo after wind ripped protective plastic sheeting from their cage during a winter storm, the zoo’s owner has said.
Two cubs were found dead on Thursday, just a day after they were born, said Fathy Joma. The two others were barely breathing and efforts to revive them with an electric heater and blankets failed.
Several children gathered on Friday to watch as the cubs were buried.
Joma said the 12-year Israeli-Egyptian blockade on the Gaza Strip has made it difficult to obtain the food and equipment necessary for the care of animals, Palestinian media agency Maan reported.
“We could not secure the necessary food supplements, medicines and antibiotics to save the lives of the cubs,” Joma said. “We do not have enough money and the blockade is exacerbating the situation.”
“These are African lions, they are not used to living in such cold weather and they really need special protection,” he added.
The other animals in the private zoo in the southern Gaza Strip survived the storm, including the lioness, her mate and their three 14-month-old cubs, he said.
Most of the animals in the zoo were smuggled into Gaza from Egypt via underground tunnels a few years ago, before the Egyptian military destroyed the tunnels running beneath the border.
The wintry weather sweeping the region has made it especially hard for animals that lack proper care.
International animal care groups have carried out several evacuation missions in recent years to relocate animals and birds in poor condition to sanctuaries outside Gaza.