A Bengal tiger rescued from what activists have called “the worst zoo in the world” arrived in South Africa for a new home on Thursday, after living in a small cage in Gaza alongside another tiger’s stuffed corpse.
The nine-year-old male, known as Laziz, arrived by plane. His handlers said he was in good condition and calm after travelling in a wooden crate.
The Four Paws charity launched a rescue effort at the Khan Younis zoo in Gaza when it discovered that the zoo was displaying the taxidermied corpses of animals that had died from stress, disease and starvation.
After the zoo asked for help, Four Paws on Wednesday removed 15 animals including five monkeys, a porcupine and an emu. Most were destined for an animal sanctuary in Jordan.
The tiger was taken to the Lionsrock Big Cat Sanctuary, where he took a few groggy steps into his new enclosure, used an old tree trunk as a scratching post and collapsed under a shelter to sleep off the effects of a sedative.
“Laziz is in good condition apart from a scratch on one side of his face, which comes from the crate,” said Marina Strydom, a veterinarian at Lionsrock, said Thursday.
The facility already holds about 100 big cats that have been rescued from zoos and circuses around the world. The tiger’s new enclosure is several hectares in size with tree trunks, rocks and makeshift structures to climb.
Meals will mostly include donkey meat and cow legs.
Years of conflict, cold winters, longstanding negligence and outbreaks of disease have killed many animals in captivity in Gaza.
Conditions in Gaza, home to 1.8 million people, have steadily deteriorated since Hamas, an Islamic militant group, seized control of the territory in 2007 and prompted an Israeli and Egyptian blockade.