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Egyptian vet travels the world to rescue animals from conflict zones

TJI Pick
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Published: 6 September 2019

Last updated: 5 March 2024

Dr Amir Khalil has served on five missions in Gaza, aiding and evacuating sick and trapped animals from private zoos, and other hotspots

DR AMIR KHALIL and his rescue team reached the King Hussein Bridge between Jordan and Israel at 6am on April 4. It was the first of three borders Khalil needed to cross that day, and his second attempt to do so in a week.

With him were three trucks and the tools and medicine necessary to evacuate 47 animals — including lions, wolves, baboons and ostriches — from a struggling zoo in the city of Rafah, in the Gaza Strip.

The privately-run Palestinian zoo was dusty and underfunded. Thin wire cages enclosed small squares of dirt in which a few dozen malnourished animals ate, slept and paced.

In March 2018, Four Paws International, a Vienna-based animal welfare charity where Khalil has worked for more than 20 years, sent him to Rafah to assess the zoo's conditions.

Four months earlier, things had gotten so bad that the zoo's owner unsuccessfully tried to sell three lion cubs online, hoping to use any profits to buy food for the rest of his animals.

This was his Khalil's fifth assignment in Gaza, which is controlled by the militant Islamist group Hamas and blockaded by its neighbours, Israel and Egypt. He had already evacuated two other Gaza zoos in 2014 and 2016. But this rescue would be his biggest.

FULL STORY 'I'm just for animals': the veterinarian who rescues animals from conflict zones (NPR)

Photo: Dr Khalil at work in Myanmar (Four Paws International)

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