Cédric Zanello, caretaker of the Beauval Zoo in Loir-et-Cher, is preparing a rescue mission for seven big cats, detained by two zoos located in the middle of a war zone in Yemen.
Since 2014, Yemen has been in the throes of an extremely deadly civil war, a humanitarian drama that, according to several estimates, has led to the deaths of more than 200,000 people. In the midst of this chaos, in the towns of Taiz and Ibb, located a few kilometers from the front, two zoos are trying to survive and make their animals survive.
The Taiz Zoo was the subject of a petition in 2015 to save its animals, reaping no less than 120,000 shares on social networks. Six years later, the situation is still very complicated. “They can not feed their animals, which reproduce and are too many“, Explains Cédric Zanello.
Healer at the Beauval Zoo in Loir-et-Cher, he travels the world with a mission: to save big cats in danger. The association’s latest business “Cats for tomorrow“, to which he is affiliated, is the delivery of care in Burkina Faso for lionesses in October last year.
This time he aims to come to the aid of five lions and two panthers. The five kings of the jungle (or rather in the desert) are direct descendants of Atlas lions, an extinct species endemic to northern Africa. Panthers are representatives of the smallest leopard subspecies, the Arabian leopard, classified as critically endangered.
For Cédric Zanello, therefore, the seven animals represent “a treasure“even though the current owners of the wild animals”fighting to keep them alive“.
With dilapidated enclosures, it has also happened that lions escape from Ibb zoo before being shot, which represents a threat to the population. “With the situation of the country, the animals sit in the back seat, which is understandable“, Admits the coach from Beauval. Which does not prevent his determination:
Some have explained to me that the zoo is the last distraction they have left there in order to entertain the children. They do not want to lose it.
The voluntary and Yemeni authorities were therefore able to conclude an exchange of good practice. In return for the gift of the seven big cats, the association undertakes to finance a completely new enclosure, up to standard, and thus ensure the well-being of the animals that remain on site, and the future of the zoo with
It remains to be seen what to do with the beasts that were once filtered out of a Civil War zone. After tough negotiations, the association has just had good financial news this Saturday, December 11, which “triggers the entire mission“: support from Ghana. The country in the Gulf of Guinea really wants”develop ecotourism in three nature parks and they want to repopulate them“, Says Cédric Zanello. The animals will be welcomed there in much larger semi-freedom enclosures and should enjoy all the necessary care.
Financial support from Ghana was needed given the cost of the operation with its seven means of transport, veterinary care and the 5,000 kilometers as the crow flies between departure and destination. There are still a few details to decide, or rather “a pile of papers“to overcome, as explained by the coach. The Ghanaian representative”must still go to the site to ensure proper operation and conditions“. This first phase, with the arrival of the big cats to Ghana, should take more”5 to 6 months“, Says Cédric Zanello.
“First“because the ambitions are broader than a few Ghanaian parks. The ultimate goal would be to”participate in a real reintroduction program“of both species. Thus, discussions have begun with Morocco and Saudi Arabia, and they are ongoing at the present time.”Of the Arab leopards, there are less than 200 left in the wild, and there are about 30 in the Ibb Zoo alone“, Assures Beauval’s caretaker, emphasizing the importance of rescuing these animals.