Since 2016, Mohammad Aljaleel has been known as the “cat man of Aleppo” for founding and running a cat shelter amidst the fallout of the Syrian civil war. The sanctuary—named Ernesto’s Sanctuary for Cats in Syria, in honor of Aljaleel's first cat—takes care of hundreds of felines. Sadly, the area where the shelter is located was recently hit by the devastating Turkey-Syria earthquake. In a sliver of good news, Aljaleel and his team are safe and sound, and are now working on rescuing and treating the pets that have been affected.
“Many of you have heard about the big earthquake which hit our area last night,” wrote the team in their first update after the earthquake. “We want to reassure you that our team and animals are all safe but there are many people dead around us,” adding that while the sanctuary suffered a little structural damage, entire buildings in the area collapsed, leaving the staff “psychologically devastated.”
However, these “cat men of Aleppo” swiftly got to work. After donating blood at a nearby hospital, they went out to look for trapped and injured cats among the rubble. “As you will see the cats are injured, mostly in shock, they don't even eat,” they wrote on Facebook after their first hours on the ground, while also offering to provide vet care to any pet that needs it.
The sanctuary staff has also shared videos of them rescuing cats from collapsed buildings, flooded farm areas, and even from shops where sadly their owners did not survive. “Sometimes we think that our heart is no longer able to digest all the pain we see, but some happy ending encourages us to move forward because saving even one innocent is a miracle” the team wrote in a heartfelt message. It should also be noted that Aljaleel and his team are doing all of this while feeding and looking after the animals that already lived in the shelter.
On top of the usual financial necessities of the shelter, the team will now face scarcity given the closures on the Turkish-Syrian border. While cat food and supplies are always needed, the team also requires tools and equipment to keep on looking for more animals in distress. If you want to give them a hand, you can make a donation through PayPal or look for more ways to help on their website. To stay up to date with their rescuing work, you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter.