The reasons for the visitors throwing rocks and paving slabs at the animal are unclear.
During a month that seems to be filled with disastrous and sometimes horrific news about wildlife, another shocking story has just been added to the string of animal tragedies. A crocodile has died at a zoo in Tunisia after a group of people stoned it to death. The incident happened on Tuesday last week at Belvedere Zoo, located in the capital Tunis. According to reports, there was no apparent reason why visitors threw rocks and paving slabs at the animal that was unable to defend himself.
The municipality of Tunis decided to post the graphic images (below, caution advised) on Facebook of the “brutal behaviour” showing the crocodile’s head next to what appeared to be a bloodied paving slab and another large rock, whilst adding that the crocodile died directly due to the attack which caused an internal hemorrhage. It is believed the attackers have not yet been caught. Amor Ennaifer, a vet at the zoo, told AFP, “It’s terrible. You cannot imagine what the animals endure from some visitors. Citizens leave waste and plastic bags… They throw stones at lions and hippos. There are more than 150 species in the zoo. We can’t put a guard in front of each cage. People need to be aware of the need to respect animals.”
Belvedere Zoo also made headlines just last year after photographs popped up online which showed animal enclosures that were full of litter, including plastic bottles, cigarette butts, and food packets. At the time of the media attention, the director of the zoo brushed off the criticism, claiming that the only reason that the zoo was in that condition was due to the very busy period, as it was during school holidays and during busy weekends with lots of visitors.
According to reports, the day following the incident, Riadh Mouakhar, the Tunisian environmental minister, visited the zoo and announced that he would be doubling the number of security agents in the zoo. Together with this, he also announced that he has designating three units from the environmental police force to work full time in the park. Despite this claim, reports state that the Tunisian authorities have been promising the creation of an environmental police force since 2016. The initial launch date for this new force was supposed to be in January this year, although it was then pushed back to March 2017.
On the days that followed the death of the crocodile, dozens of Tunisian protestors began to gather at the zoo to demand an explanation, after being unconvinced by the minister’s promises. They arrived holding signs that said, “Don’t let them get away with it!” The protest was an effort to call on authorities to re-open the investigation for the death of the crocodile. The recent incident of the crocodile stoning also came just a few days after the beloved hippopotamus Gustavito was stabbed and beaten to death at a zoo in El Salvador. Once again, the motive towards the brutal attack appears to be unclear.
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