Israeli zookeepers save the animals at Tbilisi Zoo. (Photo: Dr. Nili Avni-Magen)
Israeli zookeepers save the animals at Tbilisi Zoo. (Photo: Dr. Nili Avni-Magen)

An Israeli delegation of zookeepers and veterinarians have arrived in Tbilisi to assist with recapturing and containing the escaped animals from the city’s zoo following the devastating floods in Georgia’s capital on June 14. The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo and Ramat Gan Safari Park experts are on the ground to help make the facility safe for the staff and animals as the water recedes.

Almost everyone saw and shared the uproarious photos of bears and hippos roaming the streets of Tbilisi on social media, but the seriousness of the events shocked zoos around the world.

“It’s a terrible shock, it’s a terrible situation, the whole city is in chaos,” Sigalit Hertz-Dvir, Director of Marketing at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, tells ISRAEL21c. “It’s not only the animals that died but they lost three members of staff while trying to save the animals. We thought they might need help from outside because the situation is horrible in the city.”

The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) said in a release that it was “shocked to hear of the flooding of the city of Tbilisi and its zoo, which resulted in the death of three members of zoo staff, and the escape and shooting of many of its animals.”

Tibilisi Zoo administration said it lost more than half of its animals, including all its tigers, and most of its lions and bears when flash flooding destroyed the animal’s enclosures. While some of the animals escaped, most of the animals drowned or were shot dead inside the zoo park boundaries, according to reports. Only three of the zoo’s original 20 wolves and three of its 17 penguins survived, say reports.

Tbilisi zoo begged people to not kill the animals unless they were under attack but many of the wild animals were shot anyway.

Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on local zookeepers and veterinarians to assist their Georgian counterparts, and sent Dr. Nili Avni-Magen, Head Veterinarian at the Jerusalem Zoo, and Dr. Yigal Horowitz, chief veterinarian of the Ramat Gan Safari, with medical supplies to the wrecked zoo.

“Zoo associations are all connected and we have people learning together, working together, and [joining forces] on the efforts for animals in danger of extinction. Everything is done together because no zoo can succeed by itself,” Hertz-Dvir tells ISRAEL21c. “When a member of one of the zoo organizations is in trouble, we do our best to help. We feel we can help. We have a lot of experience, and knowledge in this area.”

Israeli zookeepers help save the animals in Tbilisi and rebuild devastated zoo. (Photo: Dr. Nili Avni-Magen)
Israeli zookeepers help save the animals in Tbilisi and rebuild devastated zoo. (Photo: Dr. Nili Avni-Magen)
Saving the zebras in Tbilisi. (Photo: Dr. Nili Avni-Magen)
Saving the zebras in Tbilisi. (Photo: Dr. Nili Avni-Magen)
Devastated Tbilisi Zoo.  (Photo: Dr. Nili Avni-Magen)
Devastated Tbilisi Zoo. (Photo: Dr. Nili Avni-Magen)