At their best, zoos are a sanctuary for abused or orphaned exotic animals and a centre for learning about and appreciating the creatures we share the planet with.
But at their worst, zoos are centres of abuse and neglect, where animals are abused, so greedy humans can make a profit. When Mohammed Awaida opened the Khan Younis Zoo, also called the South Forest Park, in Gaza in 2007, he cared more about proceeds than he did about the 65 animals that he had trafficked in through underground tunnels.
“The idea of a zoo came to the owner because he had possibly seen a successful one elsewhere in the territory and decided to copy it. He might just have easily seen a mobile phone shop and copied that in its place,” said Dr. Amir Khalil. And when Israel blocked Gaza, Awaida did nothing to help the animals, who were left to fend for themselves through bombings, raids, and food scarcities.