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.
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.
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.
(Reporting By Bushra Shakhshir; Writing By Marine Hass; Editing by Toby Chopra)