BEIRUT, June 29 (Reuters) – Thin and frail, the two big cats scarcely moved as they lay on the concrete floor of their cage while, nearby, an emaciated Syrian brown bear anxiously paced his enclosure.
The three starving animals are among the last, neglected residents of a zoo in Hazmieh outside Beirut, their upkeep rendered too expensive by Lebanon’s economic crisis.
“At this point they are not really lions,” said Jason Mier, director of Animals Lebanon, a rescue charity seeking homes for them and other zoo animals in sanctuaries abroad.
“DNA-wise those are lions but those are just two animals which have given up on life and are lying here.”
Animals are hanging on in similar conditions in all of Lebanon’s five zoos, victims of a financial meltdown that has consigned more than half of the population to poverty and erased more than 90% of the local currency’s value.
A lion eats around 50 kilograms (110lb) of food a week, costing 100,000…