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September 9, 2011

Reaching Out to Tripoli Zoo

Humane Society International

  • Osama, a 20-year-old male tiger in bad condition, brushes away flies from his wounds in his enclosure in Tripoli Zoo, Libya, September 9, 2011. MIHAI VASILE/VIER PFOTEN

  • Anwar, a male tiger with an open wound after he ate the top part of his tail, rests in Tripoli Zoo, Libya, September 9, 2011. MIHAI VASILE/VIER PFOTEN

  • Osama barely walks in his enclosure in Tripoli Zoo, Libya, September 9, 2011. MIHAI VASILE/VIER PFOTEN

  • Dr. Gabriel Ignat (left) and Dr. Mohamed Abu Aza prepare vaccines for the lions in Tripoli Zoo, Libya, September 9, 2011. MIHAI VASILE/VIER PFOTEN

  • Dr. Gabriel Ignat (first from L to R), dr. Amir Khalil (third from L to R), and Dr. Abdulfatah M. Husni, director of Tripoli Zoo (fourth from L to R) vaccinate lions in Tripoli Zoo, Libya, September 9, 2011. MIHAI VASILE/VIER PFOTEN

  • Dr. Amir Khalil prepares to vaccinate a lioness in Tripoli Zoo, Libya, September 9, 2011. MIHAI VASILE/VIER PFOTEN

Since news of their plight first emerged a week ago, people around the world have been clamoring to see that help reaches hundreds of wild animals at the Tripoli Zoo, for whom political unrest in Libya has resulted in hardship.

Reaching out

Humane Society International has been working on addressing the situation since CNN first reported that the animals were languishing without food, water, and care in the stifling desert heat. HSI immediately contacted the Tripoli Zoo director and a Tripoli-based veterinarian to learn first-hand about the animals' most pressing needs.

Gathering information

We learned that the zoo has approximately 70 carnivores, including tigers, lions and other big cats, plus hyenas, foxes and other carnivorous animals. The cost of meat is exceedingly high in Tripoli, requiring about U.S. $1200 per day to feed them. In addition, there are more than 700 other non-carnivorous animals at the zoo—and the fruits, grains and vegetables they need require about U.S. $800 per day.

We learned that public water has been restored to Tripoli, including the zoo. With temperatures at about 35 degrees C, or 95 degrees F, water is important not only for the animals to drink but also for hosing them down in their pens to cool them off. However, a temporary loss of electricity at the zoo has meant that refrigerated medicines have spoiled, and the zoo director has developed a list of more than 50 medications needed to care for the animals.

Doing what we can

The best scenario for the animals at Tripoli Zoo is for local authorities to marshal the resources, including from abroad, necessary to buy food and medicine on the local market; yet, getting funds into a dangerous war zone and a country that has no functional banking services poses serious security concerns, and is not a simple or straightforward process.

U.S. government restrictions against financial assistance to the Libyan government have prevented HSI from providing direct aid and support at this time, but we are monitoring the well-being of the animals at risk in the situation.

HSI has also teamed up with an international coalition of zoos and organizations to address the significant obstacles to ensuring the long-term care and well-being of these animals.

Once the current crisis passes, the Tripoli Zoo will require an unbending commitment of funding and support from the Libyan government. Over the longer term, it will also need the support of the international zoo community to meet the needs of the animals in its care, and to develop its capacity to provide for them during natural and human-caused disasters and crises.

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