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The man who risks his life to rescue zoo animals from war zones

SALLY WILLIAMS: ‘On 11 April, a flight landed [in Amman, Jordan] carrying a bear called Lula and a lion called Simba, the only two surviving animals from Mosul zoo in Iraq. More than 40 other animals had died during the fight to liberate Mosul from Isil – either caught up in the bullets and blasts, or from starvation… The safe arrival of these animals in Jordan marked the culmination of a particularly hard few months for Amir Khalil, 52, a vet who works for Four Paws, an Austria-based animal-rescue organisation, and the instigator of both operations. Rescuing the animals was costly and dangerous… Getting the animals out of Aleppo meant crossing through rebel-, government- and al-Qaeda-held territory…

In recent years we have heard much about the human cost of war: 400,000 killed in Syria; an estimated 40,000 civilian casualties in Mosul alone. Why so much effort for a few animals? Or, as officials liked to say to Khalil, ‘just’ animals. “Humans have the option to escape but animals caged in a zoo don’t have this option,” he says. And yes, of course, there has been profound human suffering but animals, too, should give us pause. “It was humans who brought animals to these places,” he says – and they depend on us to get them out. “They cannot speak, they have no political agenda, but they are messengers from the darkness, they bring hope”. SOURCE…

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