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Wildlife Rescues with Animals Lebanon

April 10, 2014

I didn’t know much about Animals Lebanon until I decided I wanted a cat. I wasn’t sure where to get one in Beirut, so I started doing some research and I found the organization’s website. I ended up adopting an orange, four-month-old kitten I named Fitz. He was a great kitten, and has since turned into a handsome man-cat.


During the process of adopting, I got to know the people who work at Animals Lebanon, and the work that they do. I started reporting stories about them with photographer Omar Alkalouti. We hung out on the foul banks of the Beirut River looking for a crocodile for hours (he was recently caught by a fisherman and turned over to the care of Animals Lebanon), where not even the bubbling brown waters could keep staff away.

In October 2013, we followed some of the team on the beginning of a rescue that they finally completed April 8 (originally it was two tigers and two lions, one lion died between October and the rescue), sending two tigers and one lioness from a private zoo to a sanctuary in France, where they will be cared for by wonderful people like Jean-Christophe Gerard, who flew to Lebanon twice for the rescue. The poor guy was still traveling until midnight last night.

(You can see more in-depth writing and photography on the rescues from my piece on Al-Monitor here).

RESCUE #1 – October 13, 2013

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RESCUE #2 – April 8, 2014

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On April 8, the staff told me stories about the past week and a half, bleary-eyed from a whirlwind of wildlife rescues and little sleep. They rescued the famous Beirut crocodile. Two baby hyenas that still need to be bottle-fed. Two tigers and one lion. And the last-known chimpanzee in Lebanon – also the reason that brought Executive Director Jason Mier to the country more than eight years ago – Charlie.

Charlie. Photo courtesy of Animals Lebanon.

Charlie. Photo courtesy of Animals Lebanon.

Animals Lebanon, after trying to get this chimpanzee for over eight years, finally successfully confiscated Charlie this past Saturday from Animal City zoo. With two rulings in their favor and the strength of Lebanon’s recent joining of the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) behind them, they went in with police, lawyers, security guards, a European veterinarian and a representative of the judge to take him off the premises. The chimpanzee had been kept alone, something that is very harmful to chimpanzees. (See full press release here).

Quoted in Animals Lebanon’s press release, Doug Cress, coordinator of the United Nations Great Ape Survival Program said, “Chimpanzees are extremely social and intelligent animals that require mental and physical stimulation to thrive. If Charlie continues to live alone, he will undoubtedly suffer.”

It can’t be underscored how incredible it is how this organization has been able to do so much in Lebanon without laws to protect animals in a culture that has historically cared very little for animal welfare – something that is slowly changing with the efforts of people like those at Animals Lebanon. They are calling for everyone’s help to stand with them in their fight to keep Charlie. I suggest you do – I am. 

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