Palestinian zoo officials rip out 14-month-old lioness cub's claws so 'children can play with her'

The Rafah zoo, which is in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip close to the border with Egypt, clipped the claws of Falestine as part of a new scheme where they advertised children could play with the big cat


                            Palestinian zoo officials rip out 14-month-old lioness cub's claws so 'children can play with her'

A Palestinian zoo is facing heavy criticism from animal rights activists after it clipped the claws of one of its lioness cubs so it would then be "friendly" enough so children could play with the animal.

According to Daily Mail, the Rafah zoo in the Gaza Strip — which was opened in 1999 and which currently houses 49 animals including five lions, a hyena, several monkeys, wolves, emus, cats, dogs, and exotic birds — clipped off 14-month-old Falestine's claws with a pair of shears. However, the cub was allowed to keep its teeth.

The operation reportedly took place two weeks ago and saw the cub tranquilized and placed on a table. The veterinarian operating on her, Fayez al-Haddad, had to sew up a wound on her paw that oozed blood after the initial clipping and went on to operate on her again — to clip down the claws further — on February 12.

Palestinian zoo workers hold up the lioness 'Falestine' at the Rafah Zoo in the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2019. - The zoo in the war-battered Palestinian enclave is promoting itself as offering the chance to play with the 14-month-old declawed lioness, which is supposed to be placid enough to meet visitors. It is the latest unconventional animal care practice in Gaza where there is no specialized animal hospital with a few dilapidated zoos competing for business. (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP/Getty Images)
Palestinian zoo workers hold up the lioness 'Falestine' at the Rafah Zoo in the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2019. - The zoo in the war-battered Palestinian enclave is promoting itself as offering the chance to play with the 14-month-old declawed lioness, which is supposed to be placid enough to meet visitors. It is the latest unconventional animal care practice in Gaza where there is no specialized animal hospital with a few dilapidated zoos competing for business. (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP/Getty Images)

 

The zoo explained the declawing was done in a bid to promote its new scheme where visitors can play with the cub. Park owner, 53-year-old Mohammed Jumaa, reiterated the same. "I'm trying to reduce the aggression of the lioness so it can be friendly with visitors."

Fayez, who was paying close attention to Falestine after her second operation when she was taken out to meet local residents, said the same. "The claws were cut so that they would not grow fast and visitors and children could play with her," he said. However, he added they would still grow back in the next six months. 

Palestinian veterinarian Fayyaz al-Haddad, reaches for the paw of the lioness 'Falestine' as she is held by another man, at the Rafah Zoo in the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2019. - The zoo in the war-battered Palestinian enclave is promoting itself as offering the chance to play with the 14-month-old declawed lioness, which is supposed to be placid enough to meet visitors. It is the latest unconventional animal care practice in Gaza where there is no specialized animal hospital with a few dilapidated zoos competing for business. (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP/Getty Images)
Palestinian veterinarian Fayyaz al-Haddad, reaches for the paw of the lioness 'Falestine' as she is held by another man, at the Rafah Zoo in the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2019. - The zoo in the war-battered Palestinian enclave is promoting itself as offering the chance to play with the 14-month-old declawed lioness, which is supposed to be placid enough to meet visitors. It is the latest unconventional animal care practice in Gaza where there is no specialized animal hospital with a few dilapidated zoos competing for business. (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP/Getty Images)

The veterinarian also argued that the procedure — which has been deemed the equivalent of amputating the fingers of a human up to the knuckle — was not cruel. "We want to bring smiles and happiness to children while increasing the number of visitors to the park, which suffers from high expenses," he said. "[The lioness] does not lose its innate nature."

Animal welfare campaigners said this was just a blatant attempt to get one up over the local competition in the area in order to drive up profits. Because there are no specialized animal hospitals in Gaza, the operation had to be carried out at the zoo, which lacks the proper facilities, and which activists said meant Falestine had been subjected to "horrific pain."

Palestinian veterinarian Fayyaz al-Haddad, holds the paw of the lioness 'Falestine' after being declawed, at the Rafah Zoo in the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2019. - The zoo in the war-battered Palestinian enclave is promoting itself as offering the chance to play with the 14-month-old declawed lioness, which is supposed to be placid enough to meet visitors. It is the latest unconventional animal care practice in Gaza where there is no specialized animal hospital with a few dilapidated zoos competing for business (Getty Images)
Palestinian veterinarian Fayyaz al-Haddad, holds the paw of the lioness 'Falestine' after being declawed, at the Rafah Zoo in the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2019. - The zoo in the war-battered Palestinian enclave is promoting itself as offering the chance to play with the 14-month-old declawed lioness, which is supposed to be placid enough to meet visitors. It is the latest unconventional animal care practice in Gaza where there is no specialized animal hospital with a few dilapidated zoos competing for business (Getty Images)

 

In a statement condemning the zoo, the Four Paws International Animal Charity wrote, "For big cats, removing the claws is a particularly vicious procedure which causes long-lasting damage. Natural behavior, such as grabbing food or climbing, is hardly possible without an animal’s claws. Since the amputation was not done in a proper vet clinic, the chance of infection is high."

The charity also demanded that the zoo, which is in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip close to the border with Egypt, smuggles wild animals through underground tunnels and that it be shut down for its horrific past record with the animals — they are often confined to tiny, unkempt cages and the zoo saw four newborn lions freeze to death recently.