Baghdad zoo

Baghdad zoo

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The Baghdad Zoo is a 200 acres (81 ha) zoo
Zoo
A zoological garden, zoological park, menagerie, or zoo is a facility in which animals are confined within enclosures, displayed to the public, and in which they may also be bred....

 originally opened in 1971 and located in Baghdad
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

, Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, in the al-Zawraa' Gardens area along with the Zawraa Amusement Park and Zawraa' Tower. Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq
2003 invasion of Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...

, the zoo housed 650 animals. After being decimated during the 2003 Iraqi war, when only about 35 animals survived, the zoo was reopened in 2003 and now houses about 1070 animals.

Early history


The Baghdad Zoo was built in 1971 under Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr
Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr
General Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr , was the fourth President of Iraq from 1968 to 1979.-Military career:...

.

The facilities were insufficient, with small confinement spaces considered inhumane
Cruelty to animals
Cruelty to animals, also called animal abuse or animal neglect, is the infliction of suffering or harm upon non-human animals, for purposes other than self-defense. More narrowly, it can be harm for specific gain, such as killing animals for food or for their fur, although opinions differ with...

. After the first Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

, Iraq's zoos suffered from the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 Iraq sanctions
Iraq sanctions
The Iraq sanctions were a near-total financial and trade embargo imposed by the United Nations Security Council on the nation of Iraq. They began August 6, 1990, four days after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, stayed largely in force until May 2003 , and certain portions including reparations to Kuwait...

, limited particular foods, medicines, and vaccine
Vaccine
A vaccine is a biological preparation that improves immunity to a particular disease. A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism, and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe or its toxins...

s.

Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

 closed the zoo for renovations in the spring of 2002, but instead turned it into a quasi-military base
Military base
A military base is a facility directly owned and operated by or for the military or one of its branches that shelters military equipment and personnel, and facilitates training and operations. In general, a military base provides accommodations for one or more units, but it may also be used as a...

 in the wake of US threats of a possible invasion.

2003 Invasion


The zoo was destroyed during the 2003 invasion of Iraq
2003 invasion of Iraq
The 2003 invasion of Iraq , was the start of the conflict known as the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 21 days of major combat operations...

. For their own safety, zoo workers suspended feeding the animals in early April 2003, when Fedayeen Saddam
Fedayeen Saddam
Fedayeen Saddam was a paramilitary organization loyal to the former Ba'athist government of Saddam Hussein. The name was chosen to mean "Saddam's Men of Sacrifice". At its height, the group had 30,000-40,000 members.-Irregular forces:...

 troops took up defensive positions around the zoo as U.S. forces began the battle of Baghdad. Out of the original 650 to 700 animals in the Baghdad Zoo only 35 had survived to the eighth day of the invasion, and these tended to be some of the larger animals.

During the absence of zoo staff and officials, the zoo suffered from severe looting
Looting
Looting —also referred to as sacking, plundering, despoiling, despoliation, and pillaging—is the indiscriminate taking of goods by force as part of a military or political victory, or during a catastrophe, such as during war, natural disaster, or rioting...

. Cages were torn open by thieves who released or took hundreds of animals and birds. Zoo staff claimed most of the birds and game
Game (food)
Game is any animal hunted for food or not normally domesticated. Game animals are also hunted for sport.The type and range of animals hunted for food varies in different parts of the world. This will be influenced by climate, animal diversity, local taste and locally accepted view about what can or...

 animals were taken for food as pre-war food shortages
Famine
A famine is a widespread scarcity of food, caused by several factors including crop failure, overpopulation, or government policies. This phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality. Every continent in the world has...

 in Baghdad were exacerbated by the invasion.

Many animals were found roaming the zoo grounds. The remaining animals were found in critical condition, dying of thirst and starving in their cages, including Mandor, a 20-year-old Siberian tiger that was the personal property of Uday Hussein
Uday Hussein
Uday Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti , was the eldest son of Saddam Hussein from his first wife, Sajida Talfah. He was the brother of Qusay Hussein. Uday was for several years seen as the heir apparent of his father; however, Uday lost his place in the line of succession due to his erratic behavior and...

, and Saida, a blind brown bear
Brown Bear
The brown bear is a large bear distributed across much of northern Eurasia and North America. It can weigh from and its largest subspecies, the Kodiak Bear, rivals the polar bear as the largest member of the bear family and as the largest land-based predator.There are several recognized...

.

Several lion
Lion
The lion is one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, and a member of the family Felidae. With some males exceeding 250 kg in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger...

s escaped from the abandoned zoo and were rounded up by American soldiers in armored fighting vehicles. Four that would not return to their cages were shot by the soldiers. Comics author Brian K. Vaughan
Brian K. Vaughan
Brian Keller Vaughan is an American comic book and television writer. He is best known for the comic book series Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, Runaways, and Pride of Baghdad, and was one of the principal writers of the television series Lost, during seasons three through five...

 wrote the fictionalized graphic novel
Graphic novel
A graphic novel is a narrative work in which the story is conveyed to the reader using sequential art in either an experimental design or in a traditional comics format...

 Pride of Baghdad
Pride of Baghdad
Pride of Baghdad is a graphic novel written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Niko Henrichon released by DC Comics' Vertigo imprint on September 13, 2006...

based on the lions, giving each speech and a personality.

Rebuilding the Zoo



In mid-April 2003 South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

n conservationist Lawrence Anthony
Lawrence Anthony
Lawrence Anthony and raised in rural Rhodesia , Zambia, and Malawi, is an international conservationist, environmentalist, explorer, and bestselling author....

 from the Thula Thula Game Reserve in Zululand, traveled in a hired car with two assistants from Kuwait to bring relief to the Baghdad Zoo, the first civilians to gain entry to Iraq after the invasion. Working with the Baghdad Zoo directors Dr. Adel Salman Mousa and Dr. Husham Mohamed Hussan and a few returning staff they began caring for and feeding the remaining animals, restoring basic hygiene
Hygiene
Hygiene refers to the set of practices perceived by a community to be associated with the preservation of health and healthy living. While in modern medical sciences there is a set of standards of hygiene recommended for different situations, what is considered hygienic or not can vary between...

 standards, and stabilizing the situation. Anthony's journey to the zoo was delayed by safety and bureaucracy issues in the chaos of the war, and he arrived at the zoo 8 days after the invasion started to rescue the surviving animals.

U.S. Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 Captain
Captain (OF-2)
The army rank of captain is a commissioned officer rank historically corresponding to command of a company of soldiers. The rank is also used by some air forces and marine forces. Today a captain is typically either the commander or second-in-command of a company or artillery battery...

 William Sumner of the 354th Civil Affairs Brigade was the military officer in charge of the zoo and joined the team improving security and stemming the tide of looters. He appointed Anthony as interim zoo administrator, and remained in charge of the zoo for 14 months. He departed with his brigade in March 2004. Iraqi veteran Farah Murrani joined the rescue effort with Brendan Whittington-Jones of the Thula Thula game reserve
Game reserve
A game reserve is an area of land set aside for maintenance of wildlife for tourism or hunting purposes. Many game reserves are located in Africa. Most are open to the public, and tourists commonly take sightseeing safaris or hunt wild game....

. At various times they were joined by other conservation organizations including Wildaid
WildAid
WildAid is an international 501 NGO whose mission is to end the illegal wildlife trade. Rather than an issue of biology or culture WildAid views the illegal wildlife trade fundamentally as a matter of economics - of supply and demand....

, Care for the Wild International, and IFAW
International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)
The International Fund for Animal Welfare is currently one of the largest animal welfare and conservation charities in the world.The group says its mission is "to improve the welfare of wild and domestic animals throughout the world by reducing commercial exploitation of animals, protecting...

.

The zoo and surrounding park reopened to the public on July 20, 2003, following improvements and renovations by US Army engineers and featured 86 animals, including all 19 surviving lions. Most of these animals were rescued after the invasion from menagerie
Menagerie
A menagerie is/was a form of keeping common and exotic animals in captivity that preceded the modern zoological garden. The term was first used in seventeenth century France in reference to the management of household or domestic stock. Later, it came to be used primarily in reference to...

s at the Hussein family palaces and private zoos around Baghdad during the ongoing conflict, and included lion
Lion
The lion is one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, and a member of the family Felidae. With some males exceeding 250 kg in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger...

s, tiger
Tiger
The tiger is the largest cat species, reaching a total body length of up to and weighing up to . Their most recognizable feature is a pattern of dark vertical stripes on reddish-orange fur with lighter underparts...

s, brown bear
Brown Bear
The brown bear is a large bear distributed across much of northern Eurasia and North America. It can weigh from and its largest subspecies, the Kodiak Bear, rivals the polar bear as the largest member of the bear family and as the largest land-based predator.There are several recognized...

s, wolves, fox
Fox
Fox is a common name for many species of omnivorous mammals belonging to the Canidae family. Foxes are small to medium-sized canids , characterized by possessing a long narrow snout, and a bushy tail .Members of about 37 species are referred to as foxes, of which only 12 species actually belong to...

es, jackal
Jackal
Although the word jackal has been historically used to refer to many small- to medium-sized species of the wolf genus of mammals, Canis, today it most properly and commonly refers to three species: the black-backed jackal and the side-striped jackal of sub-Saharan Africa, and the golden jackal of...

s, camel
Camel
A camel is an even-toed ungulate within the genus Camelus, bearing distinctive fatty deposits known as humps on its back. There are two species of camels: the dromedary or Arabian camel has a single hump, and the bactrian has two humps. Dromedaries are native to the dry desert areas of West Asia,...

s, ostrich
Ostrich
The Ostrich is one or two species of large flightless birds native to Africa, the only living member of the genus Struthio. Some analyses indicate that the Somali Ostrich may be better considered a full species apart from the Common Ostrich, but most taxonomists consider it to be a...

, badger
Badger
Badgers are short-legged omnivores in the weasel family, Mustelidae. There are nine species of badger, in three subfamilies : Melinae , Mellivorinae , and Taxideinae...

s, and some primate
Primate
A primate is a mammal of the order Primates , which contains prosimians and simians. Primates arose from ancestors that lived in the trees of tropical forests; many primate characteristics represent adaptations to life in this challenging three-dimensional environment...

s.

Whittington-Jones and Murrani remained at the zoo for another year during which time they also found homes in the US for over 30 Baghdad street dogs.

The story of the rescue of the Baghdad zoo is recounted in the book Babylon's Ark
Babylon's Ark
Babylon's Ark, The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo is a book written by South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony along with author Graham Spence...

 by authors Lawrence Anthony and Graham Spence. A more recent book for children called Saving the Baghdad Zoo, a True Story of Hope and Heroes, was released on February 9, 2010.

Tragedies and Setbacks


On September 18, 2003, a group of U.S. Army Reserve soldiers and Iraqi police held a party in the zoo after it had closed. Sergeant Keith Mitchell of the 422nd Civil Affairs Battalion had his right arm severely mauled by a male Bengal tiger; a soldier, seeing the attack, initially shot and wounded the tiger, when this failed to stop the tiger a final shot fatally wounded the caged animal. One report says that Mitchell was trying to feed the tiger a chicken kabob, but Mitchell denies this. The initial reports of drunkenness by the soldiers led to public condemnation, but Mitchell says he had one beer. Tests were not performed until the next morning on a half-dozen of the soldiers. Court martial proceedings occurred in Washington, D.C., where Mitchell was partially-exonerated of charges (except drinking on duty for consuming one beer). Mitchell's rank was restored after a three month probationary period. The tiger had an autopsy, which no foreign food was found in its digestive tract, nor was any found around or near the cage. The event inspired a play titled Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo
Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo is a play by Rajiv Joseph. The show is about "a tiger that haunts the streets of present day Baghdad seeking the meaning of life. As he witnesses the puzzling absurdities of war, the tiger encounters Americans and Iraqis who are searching for friendship, redemption,...

, which was staged by the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles in 2009 and 2010. Mitchell received an honorable medical discharge in 2006, but died from complications from the attacks in April, 2007, leaving a wife and one daughter.

In 2009, three wild boars at the zoo were euthanized due to fears that they could get infected with the A/H1N1 flu virus (Swine flu).

A Zoo Recovering


In 2008 the zoo had grown to about 800 animals, though most of these were birds. The only large animals at the zoo were two female lions left from the 22 original lions before the invasion. On 4 August 2008, the zoo received two tiger cubs (Hope and Riley) from the Mebane, North Carolina-based Conservators' Center, an exotic-wildlife sanctuary.

By 2009, the zoo reported that they had about 1070 animals. To keep visitors safe, Zawraa Park, in which the zoo is located, is guarded by the special police units that guard other government facilities. Visitors are frisked and bags and baskets are checked for explosives. Although numbers cannot be verified, the director general of parks and gardens, Salah Abu al-Lail, expected close to 8 million visitors to the park in 2009.

External links