Almost all that remains of the zoo that once made up Gaza’s “Fun Land” are the cages; a situation that reflects the fact that the name given to the zoo at its inception, has died along with its inhabitants. The animals of Fun land have all slowly perished for lack of the materials necessary for their development, medicine and the availability of food needed to meet their special dietary requirements.
For the past four years, Israel has imposed a strict blockade on Gaza which means that only limited amounts of food and the bare necessities needed to sustain human life are allowed in, much less items for animals.
Mohammad Barghoth, the proprietor of Fun Land, has recently put the land his zoo once occupied up for sale in an effort to stem the losses he has been incurring. He explained that the crisis began immediately after the war when large numbers of animals died of hunger in addition to exposure to the bombing. He mentioned that the ongoing restoration he had been attempting could not save the park from the crisis, which worsened rapidly.
The zoo’s director said the crisis had intensified with the passage of time and lack of medicines and food for the animals, especially for the wild birds that began to die every few days. He added that they had tried to bring in medicine through the tunnels, but could not as most traders were not interested. For those that would consider it, they requested extortionate sums.
A number of the park’s animals and birds have died recently, despite receiving medicine, including the ostrich, some peacocks and a fox. The ostrich died a few hours after ingesting a drug that was brought in. The adverse effects of the drug were noticed and measures were taken to save the ostrich, but to no avail.
The Director of the zoo blamed the deaths on a lack of expertise and experience of veterinarians in dealing with their animals. He tried to bring in alternative animals to ensure the continuation of the zoo, but this also failed as traders proposed to bring in the new animals at a cost of $10,000 each.
With the daily losses he incurs as a result of the death of animals, in addition to the initial cost of the zoo which was around $700,000, the enterprise has only caused him an accumulation of debt. There is almost no public demand for the zoo, whether individual or groups and he is forced to close altogether. This is despite the recent phenomenon which sought to replace the zebras by donkeys. Due to the extortionate sums required to bring in zebras, zoo owners resorted to using dye to paint regular donkeys with black and white strips to look like zebras which entertained the children for a while.
As long as the blockade of Gaza continues, this will remains the fate of “Fun Land” and other businesses like it which depend on goods being brought into the Strip from the outside. The siege continues to have far reaching effects on various aspects of Palestinian life and rights; economic, social and cultural.
MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad