The war-torn country is unable to provide food or medical care for the zoo’s collection of big cats

By Alex Heigl
Updated June 10, 2016 04:02 PM
Credit: Taiz Zoo Animal Welfare/Facebook

The trickle-down effect of Yemen’s civil war has hit a surprising target: The big cats at the country’s zoo.

Lions and endangered Arabian leopards are among the animals at the zoo who are facing imminent starvation as the zoo’s supplies dwindle amid the strife plaguing the country.

“We have about two and half weeks of food for them,” Victoria Johner y Cruz, a Geneva-based lawyer who is trying to help save the animals, told the Washington Post.

The zoo runs on fees from visiting tourists, a stream that has understandably dried up since battling armed groups and airstrikes have ravaged Yemen. Zoo workers aren’t getting paid and funds for food and medicine have dried up.

The animals are suffering: They’re emaciated and some have open sores from fighting each other for food. In February, 12 lions and six leopards had died as a result of the situation.

Cruz and others started a crowdfunding campaign that raised $57,000, which went to feeding the cats and the zoo’s donkeys, surgery, medical treatment and the staff’s unpaid wages.

Cruz continues to crowdfund, because her efforts to get a larger organization to intervene have been unsuccessful. “We’ve been knocking at every door,” said Cruz. “Every single NGO whose mission is animal welfare, their excuse is the war. They say, ‘We can’t get in.’ With people dying, and the bombs, the plight of the animals seems nonexistent by comparison. People don’t focus on it. And there’s no institutional capacity in Yemen to take care of the animals.”

Another source of concern: Poachers, who may overrun the zoo, capture the animals and sell them to wealthy private citizens for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“It keeps me up at night,” Cruz said. “To think of these little face between the bars.”

To help Yemen’s zoo animals donate to crowdfunding efforts here.