Three Siberian tiger cubs destined for a zoo in Syria were rescued by a Lebanese animal rights group after they were found inside an unmarked, maggot-infested crate in Beirut's airport.
Animals Lebanon said the tigers were being transported from Ukraine and had arrived at Beirut's airport on March 7. The cubs were trapped inside a 10.6-cubic feet crate for almost a week before being rescued.
Jason Mier, the executive director of Animals Lebanon, said the organization found out the shipment was headed to the Samer al-Husainawi Zoo in Damascus before it landed in Beirut.
Animals Lebanon ended up petitioning a judge to have the tigers released into their care.
"Once we finally got them out of the box, the box had dozens and dozens of maggots crawling around in it. There were maggots all over the back thighs of the animals and around their anus," Mier said.
Mier added that the cubs were also suffering from dehydration.
Volodymyr Topchiy, the director of the Ukranian zoo that shipped the cubs, said the deal to send them was done legally.
"They passed customs clearance, we have customs declarations," he said.
Topchiy said he believes bureaucracy prevented the cubs from reaching their final destination. Mier, however, argues that the crate the cubs were in did not meet IATA regulations or those of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
This isn't the first deal the Mykolaev, Ukraine zoo has made with this zoo in Syria. In fact, Topchiy said he's considering sending more cubs there.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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