Friday, December 10, 2010

Stop circus abuse in Lebanon

We woke up Christmas morning with an email alerting us to a shipment of lions and tigers that was on the Egyptian/Jordanian border and it was headed to Lebanon.

This shipment of six lions and three tigers is part of a circus that was coming here to perform for six months, and advertisements were put up throughout Beirut.  The circus was supposed to start on 23 December, but it had been delayed repeatedly as the animals still had not arrived.

The Princess Alia Foundation went to the Aqaba border crossing with the Greater Amman Municipality on 25 December after being notified that the animals had been stuck on the border for days.

According to the report from the Princess Alia Foundation the shipment left its point of origin in Egypt on 21 December, and the Egyptian crew accompanying the shipment said the animals had been put in the crates approximately ten days before.

The shipment was delayed for two days on the border as the Egyptian crew did not have the proper paperwork to show they could continue the journey to Syria.  The crew admitted that they had not provided food or water since they left their point of origin I Egypt as the owner of the animals did not provide them with money to purchase it.

Food and water were purchased by the Princess Alia Foundation and the officials from the Greater Amman Municipality after it became clear that the animals had not been fed or watered for at least two days.  They the escorted the shipment to the Syria border, and the animals finally left Jordan at 13:20 on 26 December and headed into Syria.

More information from the Princess Alia Foundation is available here.

While we did inform two officials in the Ministry of Agriculture that this shipment was on its way and warned them that there were serious problems with the paperwork, unfortunately the animals were let in.  They insisted that they were taking the matter seriously and would contact us once the animals arrived to the Lebanese border.  Unfortunately we were not informed, and after getting the Ministry official on the phone he admitted that the shipment had already entered Lebanon and was at the circus already.

We raced to the circus grounds to document the animals as quickly as possible and check on their health, but found that the animals had still not arrived.  After speaking to different circus staff and making a range of calls, we found out that the shipment had been stopped at the border as the crew did not have the proper documents.

Sitting in a nearby parking lot for hours, we began to wonder if the shipment was hidden somewhere until the circus was about to start as they were aware of the complaints about them that had started to come in.  As it got dark, we finally saw the truck pull up at 19:45 on 27 December, six full days after the animals left their point of origin in Egypt.

We watched nearby for the next three hours as the trucks were slowly pulled around and equipment was offloaded from the two trucks carrying the animals.  A crane lifted the two large crates containing the animals from the semi-trucks that had driven them from Egypt, and the animal crates were arranged behind the circus tent.

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