ZOOKEEPERS in Gaza are trying to draw in visitors by ripping out lions’ claws so they can play with children – but they leave in the animals’ razor sharp teeth.
The sick practice has left one lioness distressed as she is hugged by 12-year-old and left pawing at a tree.
Falestine, a 14-month-old lioness at the zoo in Rafah, a Palestinian enclave of Gaza, had her claws surgically removed.
But as there’s no specialised animal hospital in Gaza, the operation was carried out by a vet in the zoo, which doesn’t have the facilities to perform such a procedure.
Zoo owner Mohammed Jumaa, 53, said: “I’m trying to reduce the aggression of the lioness so it can be friendly with visitors.”
Falestine had her claws removed two weeks ago and was let out of her cage briefly to be observed on Tuesday, for the first time since her operation.
She interacted with the zoo keepers and they say guests were kept at a distance at first.
But the lioness appeared distressed, scratching at a tree in the enclosure with her claw-less paws.
A 12-year-old boy says he played with Falestine when she had been let out of her cage and that he wasn’t scared of the lioness, just excited to post about the encounter on social media.
He said: “I am happy because I played with the lion and it did not bite me or tear my clothes.
“My friends saw the pictures I posted on Facebook and WhatsApp.”
CRUEL DECLAWING PROCEDURE
Fayez al-Haddad, the veterinarian who operated on Falestine said: “The claws were cut so that they would not grow fast and visitors and children could play with her.
“We want to bring smiles and happiness to children, while increasing the number of visitors to the park, which suffers from high expenses.
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“(The lioness) does not lose its innate nature.”
Haddad denies that procedure is cruel, but the Paw Project, an organisation that rehabilitates big cats, says the declawing process is inhumane and maimes the felines.
He added that the claws grow back within six months, so will become a risk to visitors yet again.
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