Zoo animals starve in Yemen city shattered by war

Thu Feb 25, 2016 5:20am EST
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By Noah Browning

DUBAI (Reuters) - Fighting, bombing and a blockade by militiamen of food and water that have killed hundreds of people in the southwestern Yemeni city of Taiz have not spared the animals of the local zoo.

But thanks in part to the work of an animal-lover a world away in Sweden, the beasts now have a better chance of surviving.

The feathered and furry denizens of the city zoo are slowly dying from starvation and untreated wounds before the eyes of helpless keepers, in another sign of suffering the impoverished country has endured in nearly a year of war.

King of the jungle no longer, one male lion is so emaciated that every bump in his spine pokes up and sores cover much of his body.

The critically endangered Arabian leopards which once stalked the verdant highlands are dropping dead from hunger. Zoo staff allow them to feast on their expired brethren - anything to keep them alive.

"When I first arrived, the scene was terrifying. Animals would be fed one day and not eat again for another five. They were bleeding, angry and would fight each other over any scraps to eat," said one volunteer working at the zoo.

"It was a picture of hell on earth," he added.

The man, who declined to give his name for security reasons, said the number of staff was down to just 17 - none of them had been paid in months and were working for love of the animals.   Continued...

A lion sits inside its cage at a zoo in Yemen's southwestern city of Taiz February 22, 2016. REUTERS/Anees Mahyoub