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| 11 July, 2017

Lebanon's PM has tigers to tea to talk animal trafficking

Sumatran tiger cubs and their parents walk around their enclosure at London Zoo in London, January 5, 2015. The annual stock take and animal count, a requirement of London Zoo's license, included additions to the international conservation breeding programme such as the three tiger cubs and Philippine crocodiles.   REUTERS/Toby Melville

Sumatran tiger cubs and their parents walk around their enclosure at London Zoo in London, January 5, 2015. The annual stock take and animal count, a requirement of London Zoo's license, included additions to the international conservation breeding programme such as the three tiger cubs and Philippine crocodiles. REUTERS/Toby Melville

REUTERS/Toby Melville

11 July 2017

BEIRUT: Three tiger cubs found dehydrated and starved four months ago at the Beirut airport were the guests of honor Tuesday at the Downtown residence of Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

A truck carrying the caged animals was brought into the courtyard of Hariri’s residence, where the prime minister posed for pictures with the organization behind the animal’s care as a way to raise awareness on the issue of animal trafficking.

Jason Mier, director of Animals Lebanon, thanked Hariri for intervening in the matter. “We were only able to free them [the tigers] because of the support of the prime minister, Saad Hariri, who helped through the Council of Ministers,” Mier said. “We petitioned the government to take them in our care and it has taken us a full four months – and this should have been [an easy] case.”

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The three cubs will soon be moved to a sanctuary in France, where numerous other animals trafficked to Lebanon and the region are being taken care of.

Born in a zoo in Mykolaev, Ukraine, the animals were destined for a zoo in Syria, according to the customs declaration.

However, Mier said there was little evidence to support this claim. “My belief is that there actually isn’t a zoo in Syria, as we have never heard [its] name before. I don’t believe these animals were destined for a zoo because in all these four months we never heard from the importer,” Miers said.

One hypothesis is that the tigers were destined for a third country, with Syria and Lebanon as intermediary stops. A second hypothesis is that Lebanon was instead meant to be final port of call.

“We don’t know what they were destined to but their faith wouldn’t have been good,” Miers added.

Animals Lebanon already rescued a dozen big cats and other wild animals. A tiger costs between $10,000 and $25,000, which makes trafficking a lucrative business.

Mier said he was hopeful the support shown by the premier would constitute a step forward in the eradication of animal trafficking. “This is not something for Lebanon to be part of,” he said. “This is a very good example that sets a precedent that we can continue on.”

© Copyright The Daily Star 2017.