(Reuters) - Blood tests, eye checkups and ultrasound exams are on the cards for nine animals, five big cats among them, that have been trucked into Turkey in a rescue from their damaged zoo in Aleppo in strife-torn Syria.
Three lions, two tigers, two bears and two hyenas survived more than six years of intense clashes at the abandoned Aalim al-Sahar (Magic World) zoo to arrive at a rehabilitation center in Turkey's western province of Bursa.
The project was a joint effort between the Turkish environment ministry and international animal charity Four Paws.
"To go to the border to see how difficult it is, to make some tests, to bring one cage out - it is impossible," said Amir Khalil, who led the charity's efforts.
"So to bring wild animals, it was a long, long way."
Efforts to find new homes for the animals will kick off after they complete rehabilitation, to help recover from their ordeal.
"We will check the blood, we will do ultrasound and we will do an eye exam, and then we will have a real idea of what is the situation and status," said wildlife veterinarian Frank Goeritz.
"And then we can continue our mission to bring them to a final destination."
In a second stage of the rescue, two lions and two dogs are soon to be evacuated to Turkey, officials added.
Since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Turkey has taken in about 3 million Syrian migrants, becoming home to the world's largest refugee population.
(Writing by Karishma Singh; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)