An international charity has removed a tiger and 15 other animals from a Gaza zoo in a bid to give them a better life. Their departure effectively closes the zoo in the war-ravaged Palestinian enclave.
The last tiger in Gaza left the Palestinian enclave on Wednesday along with monkeys, emus, a porcupine, deer, eagles and other animals, headed for a new life in Jordan, South Africa or other countries.
The animal welfare group Four Paws took the tiger, called Laziz ("Cutey" in Arabic), and his companions from the Khan Younis zoo to Israel in cages on trailers, effectively closing the facility, which had recently been unable to give the animals proper care and food owing to financial difficulties.
"The conditions the animals were under were very far from ideal," said Amir Khalil, who headed the Gaza mission for Four Paws, adding that their new homes would be "a big change."
Khalil said that Laziz, who was confined in a 3 square meter (yard) cage in Gaza, would be given the run of a 10,000 square meter enclosure at the Lionsrock refuge in South Africa.
Four Paws says on its website that the Khan Younis zoo has been known as the world's worst since it was made public last year that it was mummifying and displaying animals when they died in its care.
The owner of the zoo, who had called on the charity to help earlier this year, expressed sadness at the turn of events, saying he had brought the animals to the zoo from Libya, Sudan, Egypt and South Africa.
The plight of the animals reflects the general deterioration of living conditions in Gaza, where the nearly two million residents have suffered under years of conflict, cold winters and outbreaks of disease amid a blockade imposed by Israel for a decade.
Hamas, the Islamist group that administers the region, has fought three wars with Israel since 2008. In the most recent, in 2014, 2,251 Palestinians died, most of them civilians, according to the United Nations. Seventy-three Israelis, including 67 soldiers, were also killed in the conflict.