Motan and Pisa are two rescue lions who found a new home at Lionsrock in the Free State – and they travelled all the way from Gaza for this new lease on life

In their biggest rescue mission to date, international welfare organisation Four Paws recently transferred 47 zoo animals from the Gaza Strip.

The animals – five lions, a hyena, several monkeys, wolves, porcupines, foxes, cats, dogs, emus, ostriches and squirrels – came from Gaza’s oldest and most notorious zoo.

The Rafah Zoo made headlines in early 2019 when four lion cubs froze to death. Weeks later, footage surfaced of an incident in which garden shears were used to declaw a lioness.

“We are happy to finally put an end to this horror. For far too long, the animals of Rafah Zoo have had to live under unimaginably dreadful conditions,” Four Paws veterinarian and head of mission, Dr Amir Khalil, said in a statement.

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Motan and Pisa travelled thousands of kilometres to the Four Paws big cat refuge at Lionsrock, near Bethlehem in the Free State.

They arrived at OR Tambo International Airport on Wednesday before they were transported to the Free State by bakkie.

MJ Lourens, Four Paws head of communication, told News24 the lions were still wary of their new surroundings.

“They will be monitored during the coming weeks,” he said.