Mosul battle: Abandoned lion and bear rescued from zoo

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Lula the bear was suffering from pneumonia when found at the zoo in February

The only surviving animals of Mosul zoo have been rescued from appalling conditions in the war-torn Iraqi city.

Simba the lion and Lula the bear were found abandoned at the privately-owned zoo in February, still in their cages and covered in dirt and excrement.

The charity Four Paws International came to their aid, and on Monday it flew them to a better life in Jordan.

Troops are trying to drive Islamic State militants out of Mosul, their last major urban stronghold in Iraq.

Almost six months of fierce fighting has caused many civilian casualties, and hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
It took Four Paws International weeks to get the necessary permits from the Iraqi authorities

The Montazah al-Morour Zoo was nearly destroyed during the battle for the eastern half of the city earlier this year and most of its animals - including a lioness, monkeys and rabbits - were killed or died of starvation.

Amir Khalil, an Egyptian-Austrian vet who headed the Four Paws mission, said Simba and Lula were suffering from many diseases caused by malnutrition and lack of care when he first saw them in February. Both had very bad teeth, Lula was suffering from pneumonia and Simba from ill joints.

The next month, Dr Khalil started trying to acquire the correct paperwork from the Iraqi authorities so that the animals could be taken abroad for proper care.

Two weeks later, their first attempt to fly the animals out had to be aborted after a lorry carrying them was detained at a checkpoint.

The lorry was stuck at the roadside for nine days until further permits were secured, during which time Simba developed a respiratory problem.

Before the plane carrying them to Jordan took off on Monday, Dr Khalil told AFP news agency: "This is a beginning of a new life for the animals."

"From now on, they won't have to be part of this war."