Mosul zoo's last two animals reach safer ground in Jordan

AMMAN (Reuters) - The last two surviving animals from Mosul's dilapidated zoo arrived this week at an animal shelter in Jordan, after months of malnutrition and a long journey out of Iraq that included being stuck at the border for 12 days.

Simba the lion and Lola the bear lived in a once-peaceful animal park that has been destroyed by months of fighting between Iraqi forces and Islamic State militants. The park, located in Eastern Mosul, was retaken by Iraqi forces earlier this year.

SEE ALSO: Starving Mosul zoo animals receive first food in a month

Neighbors fed Simba and Lola until the fighting became too fierce. They said a shell once hit the park, sending hungry monkeys out of their enclosures. Other animals were killed, died of starvation or escaped.

Amir Khalil, a vet from animal charity Four Paws who saw the animals in Mosul in February and organized their transfer to Jordan, said the animals were in a dire state. At the time, he diagnosed skin lesions, joint problems and eye inflammation in the lion and diarrhea and bad teeth in the bear.

"They were on the brink of death. Now they are able to move, they have gained weight. Physically, they are doing better," Khalil said.

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Starving animals from Mosul zoo reach new home
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Starving animals from Mosul zoo reach new home
Simba the lion, one of two surviving animals in Mosul's zoo along with Lola the bear, looks on a military helicopter flying over of the Mosul's zoo, Iraq, February 2, 2017. Picture taken February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Lola the bear, one of two surviving animals in Mosul's zoo along with Simba the lion, is seen in its cage at Mosul's zoo, Iraq, February 2, 2017. Picture taken February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Workers transport the cage of Simba the lion, which it's one of two surviving animals in Mosul's zoo, along with Lola the bear, after arriving to an animal rehabilitation shelter in Jordan, April 11, 2017. Picture taken April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Customs workers carry cages of Simba the lion and Lola the bear, the only two surviving animals in the Mosul's zoo, at Queen Alia International airport in Amman, Jordan, April 10, 2017. Picture taken April 10, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Workers transport the cage of Lola the bear, which is one of two surviving animals in Mosul's zoo, along with Simba the lion, after arriving to an animal rehabilitation shelter in Jordan, April 11, 2017. Picture taken April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Lola the bear, one of two surviving animals in Mosul's zoo, along with Simba the lion, is seen at an enclosure in the shelter after arriving to an animal rehabilitation shelter in Jordan, April 11, 2017. Picture taken April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Simba the lion, one of two surviving animals in Mosul's zoo along with Lola the bear, is seen at an enclosure in the shelter after arriving in Jordan, April 11, 2017. Picture taken April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Workers transport the cage of Lola the bear, which is one of two surviving animals in Mosul's zoo, along with Simba the lion, after arriving to an animal rehabilitation shelter in Jordan, April 11, 2017. Picture taken April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Simba the lion, one of two surviving animals in Mosul's zoo, along with Lola the bear, is seen at an enclosure in the shelter after arriving to an animal rehabilitation shelter in Jordan, April 11, 2017. Picture taken April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Simba the lion, one of two surviving animals in Mosul's zoo, along with Lola the bear, is seen at an enclosure in the shelter after arriving to an animal rehabilitation shelter in Jordan, April 11, 2017. Picture taken April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Lola the bear, one of two surviving animals in Mosul's zoo, along with Simba the lion, is seen at an enclosure in the shelter after arriving to an animal rehabilitation shelter in Jordan, April 11, 2017. Picture taken April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Lola the bear, one of two surviving animals in Mosul's zoo, along with Simba the lion, is seen at an enclosure in the shelter after arriving to an animal rehabilitation shelter in Jordan, April 11, 2017. Picture taken April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Simba the lion, one of two surviving animals in Mosul's zoo, along with Lola the bear, is seen at an enclosure in the shelter after arriving to an animal rehabilitation shelter in Jordan, April 11, 2017. Picture taken April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Lola the bear, one of two surviving animals in Mosul's zoo, along with Simba the lion, is seen at an enclosure in the shelter after arriving to an animal rehabilitation shelter in Jordan, April 11, 2017. Picture taken April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Lola the bear, one of two surviving animals in Mosul's zoo, along with Simba the lion, is seen at an enclosure in the shelter after arriving to an animal rehabilitation shelter in Jordan, April 11, 2017. Picture taken April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Workers transport the cage of Lola the bear, which is one of two surviving animals in Mosul's zoo, along with Simba the lion, after arriving to an animal rehabilitation shelter in Jordan, April 11, 2017. Picture taken April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Lola the bear, one of two surviving animals in Mosul's zoo, along with Simba the lion, is seen at an enclosure in the shelter after arriving to an animal rehabilitation shelter in Jordan, April 11, 2017. Picture taken April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Simba the lion, one of two surviving animals in Mosul's zoo, along with Lola the bear, is seen at an enclosure in the shelter after arriving to an animal rehabilitation shelter in Jordan, April 11, 2017. Picture taken April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Simba the lion, one of two surviving animals in Mosul's zoo, along with Lola the bear, is seen at an enclosure in the shelter after arriving to an animal rehabilitation shelter in Jordan, April 11, 2017. Picture taken April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Lola the bear, one of two surviving animals in Mosul's zoo, along with Simba the lion, is seen after arriving to an animal rehabilitation shelter in Jordan, April 11, 2017. Picture taken April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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Back in Jordan, Lola hesitated to come out of her travel crate until she spotted a green apple - a sure sign of better things ahead.

The two animals will go through a rehabilitation program that involves hand-feeding them through the fence before being transferred to larger enclosures when their health stabilizes.

The battle for the control of Western Mosul is ongoing.

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