Animals, Abandoned and Starving, Are Evacuated From Zoo in Syria

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Nine animals that had been kept alive — barely — at a damaged zoo on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria, were evacuated and taken to a rehabilitation center in Turkey last week.

The animals — three lions, two tigers, two bears and two hyenas — were trucked from Aalim al Sahar, or Magic World, zoo after months of uncertainty.

They had been sustained by a few locals who, though they also had barely enough food to survive, took it upon themselves to feed and care for the animals.

“There was a wonderful man who went and fed them, and he took up collections from Aleppo, from people he knew, and he had just enough food to keep some of them alive,” Eric Margolis, an American journalist and businessman who financed the rescue project, said in an interview.

The animals arrived in Turkey on Friday to be evaluated and treated at an animal rescue center, and eventually rehoused, according to a statement from Four Paws International, the animal rights charity that organized the transport along with the Turkish Environment Ministry.

More than five million people have fled Syria since the country’s civil war began more than seven years ago, and more than six million are internally displaced within the country. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict.

Aleppo was locked in battle for years as government and rebel forces fought to control the city. That struggle culminated in a monthslong siege in late 2016 in which thousands of civilians were killed and much of the city was left without electricity, running water or adequate food.

The zoo’s owner fled during the battle. Some animals were killed by bombs or shells, while others were left to starve in their cages.

Those that survived were “physically and psychologically traumatized,’’ Amir Khalil, a veterinarian who headed the evacuation, said in a statement. “There was no way for them to escape from this deadly trap.”

Dr. Khalil said he had also worried that the animals could pose a threat to humans if left neglected in poorly maintained enclosures.

At least two lions and two dogs remain in the zoo and are expected to be evacuated in the coming days, Mr. Margolis said.

“We are waiting day by day now; we hope it will happen this week,” he said. “People are literally risking their lives to go into a war zone.”