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Gaza zoo declaws lion so visitors can play with it (GRAPHIC PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Gaza zoo declaws lion so visitors can play with it (GRAPHIC PHOTOS, VIDEO)
Footage showing a 14-month-old lioness named Falestine being declawed in a Gaza zoo has sparked major outcry from animal rights organizations and lovers online, who have decried the practice as “unnecessary mutilation.”

Palestinian veterinarian Fayyaz al-Haddad clipped her claws off using a pair of wire cutters and a pair of shears over the course of two weeks. Falestine was reportedly declawed so that visitors could 'play' with her at the Rafah zoo on the Gaza Strip.

“I'm trying to reduce the aggression of the lioness so it can be friendly with visitors,” said Mohammed Jumaa, 53, the park's owner, as cited by The Daily Mail.

Warning: Some readers may find this footage upsetting.

Rafah zoo, opened in 1999, is one of four that compete for business from the surrounding area. Reportedly it contains 50 animals including five lions, a hyena, several monkeys and wolves. The zoo was destroyed during an IDF bulldozing operation in 2004 and was only rebuilt two years ago.

Falestine still has a full set of teeth and her claws are expected to grow back within six months, further compounding the alleged cruelty of the procedure, as it will have to be repeated.

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“Natural behaviour, such as grabbing food or climbing, is hardly possible without an animal’s claws. Since the amputation was not done in a proper vet clinic, the chance of infection is high,” animal charity Four Paws said of the operation.

Others have likened it to amputating a human's fingers up to the knuckle.

"Declawing may result in permanent lameness, arthritis, and other long-term complications. The practice, although common in the United States, is actually illegal in many countries,” The Paw Project writes on its website.

The zoo has been criticized previously for dilapidated conditions in which four young lion cubs froze to death in January.

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