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'Gaddafi's zoo' getting help from Malta

One of Saif's tigers at the Tripoli Zoo.

One of Saif's tigers at the Tripoli Zoo.

Animals at Tripoli zoo, next door to Muammar Gaddafi's compound, are getting some much needed help through Malta.

International Animal Rescue Malta (IARM) said today that it has been given clearance by the Prime Minister to use Malta as a hub for the transport of food and medicine.

Tripoli zoo was closed to the public for several years and became known as Gaddafi's zoo because Gaddafi's son, Saif, visited almost every day. A tunnel linking the Gaddafi compound to the zoo was discovered recently.

 A few members of the staff bravely continued to tend the traumatised animals as shells exploded all around the complex during the uprising. But the return of relative calm did not ease the problem, with the animals (like the rest of Tripoli) having suffered from a water shortage and a shortage of food.

A  Siberian tiger - called Osama - died because of stress and also because of its age. The Hippos barely survived because of the shortage of water, but they are now recovering. 

The IARM has linked up with several animal welfare organisations to appeal for funds to ensure the safety of animals.

A spokesman for IARM, Max Farrugia, said this afternoon that the organisation last May ferried out of Tripoli a considerable number of pets owned by various nationals who had been working in Libya.

It has since been requested, through its headquarters in the UK, to  help ferry food and medicine to the zoo animals.

The International Federation for Animal Welfare and the Humane Society International are also funelling their assistance through the organisation in Malta. 

The association said Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi has offered to assist through the provision of free storage space. The Maltese government is also making available the transport of the material and personnel. 

"The OPM and IARM are working closely together,"  Mr Farrugia said.

He said an international group of vets is working round the clock with the Tripoli Zoo director to save as many animals as possible.

He said the IARM and the International Fund for Animal Welfare had so far provided funding to enable the zoo to get by for the next two weeks. 

CNN was among the organisations which helped ensure that the funds and materials reached the zoo. 

Mr Farrugia said that a medical team from Vier Pfoten (Four Paws) Germany and South Africa were helping in the zoo while two Libyan nationals were providing information. 

Anyone who would like to help these animals can contact IARM at [email protected] .

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