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Wednesday, 9 January, 2002, 09:27 GMT
Vets to rescue Kabul menagerie
Marjan the lion
The zoo houses Marjan the blind lion
A team of vets will fly from the UK to Afghanistan on Wednesday to tend the few surviving animals in Kabul zoo.

The London-based charity the World Society for Protection of Animals (WSPA) said the animals were in a pitiful state, following years of civil war and the recent military action.

Spokesman John Walsh told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the zoo had been 94% destroyed, and now housed only about 40 animals in cramped conditions.

"Rabbits and canaries, the lion, the bear, some coyotes and some primates... and all of them have been forced into smaller cages because most of the zoo has been destroyed."

The charity has already brought the plight of the animals - including Marjan, a 48-year-old blind lion - to the attention of the British public.

Mr Walsh said the zoo had been very popular during the Taleban era, because there was little other entertainment.

Stray dogs

"We went there in 1995 with the objective of taking the lion and animals out... but the government said no way. They wanted to keep them there."

The team will be equipped to handle animal first aid, which could include treating wounds and helping starving and dehydrated animals.

A second team, including a vet experienced in treating animals in the aftermath of disasters, is expected to arrive next week.

The teams will also assess the wider problems facing animals in Afghanistan, the charity said in a statement.

"WSPA is aware that the animal suffering in Afghanistan is likely to extend outside the zoo to livestock and stray dogs.

"WSPA is committed to doing all it can to alleviate their suffering now."

MPs debate

WSPA is an umbrella organisation of more than 400 associations in 90 countries.

The team is backed by a 160,000 ($240,000) emergency relief fund collected from donations worldwide.

Labour MP Tony Banks tabled a Commons motion calling for cash and veterinary help for the creatures in Afghanistan, and the public donated thousands of pounds to help them.

John Walsh, World Soc for the Protection of Animals
"The zoo has no electricity and no water"
See also:

23 Nov 01 | UK Politics
MPs join battle for Kabul's lion
21 Nov 01 | South Asia
Kabul's one-eyed lion soldiers on
06 Dec 01 | South Asia
Animal victims of Afghan conflict
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