Once it was among the most attractive places for a family day out and picnics in the south of the Gaza Strip but today, the Jungle Zoo has become almost empty, with no visitors. This has forced the owner to put the remaining animals in the market.
Just five days ago, Mohamed Ewaida, 24, the owner of the zoo, put the remaining tiger up for sale because he is no longer able to afford food for it, calling for purchasers to pay $30,000.
“It was a very beautiful zoo and all the time there were children all around enjoying the sight of animals that they have only seen on TV,” he said.
“Today, the zoo includes only a few animals,” noting this is due to his inability to afford the necessary food and medicines from them.
Over the past few years, scores of Ewaida’s animals have died due to the Israeli offensives on Gaza, the strict siege and the difficult economic situation in the coastal enclave.
For 51-days, during the latest Israeli offensive on Gaza in 2014, Ewaida was unable to reach the zoo to care for his animals and provide them with food and medicine. “Most of the deaths occurred during this offensive,” Ewaida said. “That was the major loss I had.”
Ewaida said he was forced to learn taxidermy because he watched his animals die without being able to do anything to help them.
“The zoo became a place where you can see mummified animals inside closed cages,” he said. “It is difficult for me to get rid of the dying animals, which used to be a source of income for me and a source of happiness for little children in Gaza.”
The 15 remaining birds and animals which still alive in the zoo, including the African tiger, were put up for sale a couple of days ago.
The Jungle Zoo opened in 2007. Most of the animals were brought in to Gaza from Africa and smuggled through the tunnels from Egypt. It used to employ 30 workers.
Images by MEMO photographer Mohammed Asad.