Rescued Syrian Animals Arrive At Sanctuaries (Photo)

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The devastation wrought on Syria's war-torn capital of Aleppo affected all within the city bounds, including the exotic animals housed at the city's Magic World Zoo.

Nestled in 4 square miles of area held by al Qaeda-associated Sunni rebels, the zoo endured numerous attacks. National Geographic reports that the area was raided by Russian forces in 2017.

The zoo's animal population had fallen from approximately 300 animals to just 13 by the time the area was stable enough for animal-interest groups to transport the survivors out of the war zone.

Thanks to two July rescue missions carefully orchestrated by Egyptian veterinarian Khalil, zookeeper Omar Khalifa, rescue group Four Paws, security experts, animal advocates and other helpers from eight different countries, the animals safely made it across the Turkish border.

"We had one hour to move the nine crates from one truck to the other," Khalil said.

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National Geographic reports that it took a significant amount of cajoling to convince Turkey to open its border long enough to let the first group of nine animals through. The rescuers were so happy when all of the animals were loaded into their new transport vehicle that everyone -- including enemy Syrians and Turks -- hugged and snapped pictures.

The animals were severely malnourished and several exhibited signs of psychological trauma. One of the tigers nearly died, two hyenas separately suffered from cataracts and kidney disease, and the bears had damaged their teeth from a mixture of a poor diet and biting their cages' bars out of anxiety. Veterinarians discovered that one of the lionesses was pregnant.

It took several weeks for the animals to receive export permits from the Turkish government to be transported across borders. Once they did, several of the animals adjusted to their new life with ease, though Khalil warns that "some will bear their [mental] injuries years after the physical wounds have healed."

The animals were shipped to sanctuaries in Jordan: the hyenas went to New Hope Center in Amman while the lions, tigers and bears went to Ma'wa, a wildlife sanctuary in the forests of northern Jordan.

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As of Oct. 17, the two tigers -- siblings Sultan and Sayeeda -- were relocated to the FELIDA Big Cat Centre in the Netherlands, located about 80 miles northeast of Amsterdam.

According to Agence France-Presse, the previously emaciated tigers have put some weight on their frames. Their handler, Juno van Zon, said that they "handled the trip well and arrived safely."

Both of the tigers are just over 1 year old. The female is acting calmer than the male, though van Zon says that is "more than normal." Though improving, neither of the tigers can be described as healthy yet. They both still have difficulty maintaining their balance and do not have shiny coats.

If and when the tigers regain their health, they'll be transported to another sanctuary in the Netherlands or to a South African reserve.

Sources: National Geographic, Agence France-Presse via MSN / Featured Image: Ashish Sehgal/Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Pixnio, Agence France-Presse via MSN

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