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May 23, 2013 8:08 am

Israeli Zoo Animals Find New Home in Turkey

avatar by Anav Silverman / Tazpit News Agency

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Illustrative photo of rhinoceros at Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. Photo: Illustrative photo of rhinoceros at Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.

In early May, Turkish Airlines hosted an unusual group of passengers flying from Israel to Istanbul. A special group of wildlife animals from Israel’s Ramat Gan Safari and the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo were flown to Turkey on May 7.

Turkish zookeepers located at the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality Natural Life Park asked the Ramat Gan Safari to assist them in expanding their African section of animals. A total of 45 animals of seven different species were flown including three meerkats, six nyalas, three monkeys, six fruit bats, three zebras and several antelopes.

In addition, according to the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News, 20 sacred ibis, a species of long-legged birds, were brought from the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo (Tisch Family Zoological Garden). It was the the first time that the Izmir Natural Life Park had become home to some of these species, including the sacred ibis and fruit bats, sent from Israel.

The Turkish daily reported that the new guests were first brought to Istanbul by plane and following customs transactions, were then transported by a special truck to Izmir. Israeli zookeepers, veterinarians, and biologists accompanied the animals to Izmir to prevent any stress or complications that might have occurred among the animals during the trip.

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The exchange was facilitated thanks to a special exchange program conducted by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) to which both the Izmir Natural Life Park and Israeli zoos belong. The EAZA conducts exchange programs among European zoos and promotes cooperation for furthering wildlife conservation.

It was not the first time that animals have been sent to Turkey from Israeli zoos. In 2008, the Ramat Gan Safari sent an Asian elephant named Winner, which was born in captivity, to the Izmir Wildlife Park. Winner, together with his Pakistani-born ‘wife’ made history in Turkey with the birth of the country’s first elephant aptly named Izmir in 2011.

Despite the strained political relationship between Turkey and Israel, all is well in animal world. According to Dr. Gilad Goldstein, a curator at the Ramat Gan Safari, there has always been a good relationship between the Ramat Gan Safari and the Izmir zoo.

“We are zoo keepers and we have an international language amongst us,” Dr. Goldstein told the Times of Israel. “We’ve always had a good relationship with them [in Izmir].”

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