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This Zoo In Gaza Displays Dead And Starving Animals

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 11/03/2016 Jesselyn Cook

A trip to a zoo in Gaza's southern city of Khan Younis is more of a heartbreaking experience than a pleasant one.

Peering out of the cages of Mohammad Oweida's zoo are the gaunt faces of starving, emaciated animals -- and dead ones.

Unable to afford enough food to keep the animals alive, Oweida, 24, told Reuters he has watched 200 of them die from starvation since the latest conflict in the area between Israel and Palestinian militants in 2014. He even keeps some of their mummified carcasses on display

Oweida is now trying to sell his frail tiger to be able to buy food for the handful of animals that remain. “I have to sell them in order to save them,” he explained

The quiet cages of bones and dust serve as a disturbing reminder of what Oweida says was once a thriving zoo

Many of the zoo's hundreds of inhabitants were smuggled into the country from Egypt when the attraction opened in 2007. Less than a decade later, few remain alive.

Keeping the animals fed costs 250 Israeli shekels, or about $64.50, per day, Oweida told Agence France-Presse. "I have not managed to earn that amount from zoo visits in one year."

The zoo's woes are a testament to the dire economic situation Gaza is in. 

Residents in the Palestinian enclave are struggling to rebuild after the seven-week war between Israel and Palestinian militants in the summer of 2014 left many homes and key infrastructure destroyed. The rebuilding effort is hampered by political conflicts and the restrictions on goods coming into the area. 

The economic challenges have left many too impoverished to visit a zoo. 

Animals in other struggling Gaza zoos have also been victims of the violence of the crisis, Vice reports. A worker in Rafah said his zoo lost about $80,000 in animals in the summer of 2014.

"One monkey, one chimpanzee, two emus, one lion, one tiger, a parrot, three deer, a pelican, dozens of birds, all dead," he said. "Most were killed directly but some died from lack of food [and] shock of explosions."

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