Lions roar in Jordan again

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A bear is seen at Al-Ma’wa for Nature and Wildlife in Jerash. October 25, 2020. (Photo: Zoe Sottile/JNews)
AMMAN — Lions, tigers, bears, and more: A nonprofit organization provides an unexpected home in Jordan for zoo animals rescued from war zones.

The group works in partnership with the government to combat illegal smuggling of wildlife.اضافة اعلان

Al Ma’wa for Nature and Wildlife, created through a partnership between the Princess Alia Foundation and international animal rescue organization Four Paws in 2011, provides a sustainable solution for rescued wildlife from around the Middle East.

Many of the animals came to Jordan after being caught in the middle of violent conflicts. Before the Syrian war, the Aleppo Zoo was home to 230 animals. Only 13 survived, forced to eat the remains of their family members in order to survive.

Armed groups refused to cooperate and hand the animals over to any aid organization, according to Al Ma’wa Manager Mustafa Khreshat. Major political intervention was required to smuggle the animals from Syria to Turkey. From there, they traveled to safety in Jerash.

“The state in which the animals reached us was heartbreaking. They were sick, severely underweight, and in a dreadful psychological state,” said Mustafa Khreshat in an interview with Jordan News.

“Animals have feelings too,” he pointed out. “They have no guilt nor business with human problems. I cannot imagine how they must have felt.”
Staff at Al Ma’wa had to rehabilitate the traumatized animals’ psychological state as well as treat malnutrition and wounds. In addition to animals rescued from war zones like Syria, the sanctuary cares for wild animals that were abused, mistreated, starved, and smuggled across borders. The organization hopes to provide its residents with realistic enclosures that mimic their natural habitats, to give them the opportunity to lead a healthy and active life.

The sanctuary, which consists of 1100 acres of thick forests, is currently home to 36 different animals rescued from locations that include Aleppo, Mosul, and Gaza. Nine bears, 23 lions, two tigers, and two hyenas reside happily in the reserve in Souf, Jerash.

Khreshat described the efforts of the government to prevent the smuggling of wildlife and Al Ma’wa’s rehabilitation work as complementary to each other.

Jordan is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which forbids the smuggling of wild animals and aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of these species.

“There is a decent number of violations that are caught on the borders and are handled well by Jordanian Customs. Illegal traders sign papers to import one kind of animal, but import endangered species instead,” said Director General of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature Yahiya Khaled.

“Parrots, falcons, and exotic birds are one of the most illegally smuggled animals to Jordan. Seized animals that do not constitute a threat to people’s safety are taken to shelters, rehabilitated, and then get released to the wilderness,” he said. Animals that cannot be returned to their original country or safely released — such as tigers and lions — find a permanent home at the sanctuary.

The wildlife sanctuary opens its doors every day to explorers and visitors. It charges JD10 entrance for foreigners, JD5 for Jordanians, and JD2 for children.

Abdullah Bustaji, a regular visitor to Al Ma’wa, told Jordan News that “It’s a great wildlife sanctuary that has bears, tigers, lions, and hyenas. Its facilities are really clean too. It’s also only one hour away from Amman. I love this place!”

“This place is really underrated, I love it and the customers seem to love it,” said Rashad Mahmoud, a local trip organizer.

Like every other aspects of life under the COVID-19 situation, number of visitors has dropped significantly.