A zoo which made the strange decision to amputate one of its lionesses claws, so visitors can "play" with it, has been slammed for animal cruelty.
The Mirror reports that staff at Rafah Zoo in Gaza, Palestine, pumped the 14-month-old big cat full of tranquilizers before putting a shroud over her head and hacking away at her claws with garden shears.
Somewhat bizarrely, the lioness is still left with a mouthful of very sharp teeth, yet apparently, staff at the zoo are encouraging children to freely play with the natural predator.
The zoo's owner, 53-year-old Mohammed Jumaa, stressed he was "trying to reduce the lionesses' aggressiveness" so visitors to the zoo could have a more user-friendly experience during up close and personal encounters with the wild animal.
Local vet Fayez al-Haddad reinforced the zoo owner's claims and added that amputating a lion's claws wasn't an act of cruelty because the zoo "wants to bring smiles to children."
He also added that "the lioness does not lose its innate nature" because her claws have been savagely ripped out.
Fayez al-Haddad said, "we want to bring smiles and happiness to children, while increasing the number of visitors to the park, which suffers from high expenses."
Animal rights campaigners beg to differ. They have declared that declawing is a cruel and horrific treatment which causes the animal a great deal of distress.
The Four Paws charity explained that removing a lion's claws is a brutal act of mutilation and akin to amputating a human being's fingers down to the knuckles.
A spokesperson for the charity said, "for big cats, removing the claws is a particularly vicious procedure which causes long-lasting damage. Natural behavior, 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."
Four Paws claims there are also many other animals suffering in the Rafah Zoo, which is the oldest zoo in Gaza. They allege that a few weeks ago, four newborn lion cubs met a premature end because they could not survive the unusually cold weather and did not recieve the proper care and attention.
They claim the zoo currently keeps 49 animals in terrible and desolate conditions, including five lions, a hyena, several monkeys, wolves, emus, cats, dogs, and exotic birds all locked in small and soul-destroying cages.
Four Paws is calling for the closure of the zoo and says they have already began negotiations with the relevant authorities.