18 October 2007

The Zoo...

I like Zoos… Everywhere I have visited, I have made the point to visit their zoo.

Today I went to the Baghdad Zoo – not a standard trip to the zoo with full battle gear on and weapons loaded, but this is not a typical city.

The first thing I noticed is how normal life seemed - it was a nice cool morning and love was in the air. I saw so many couples having picnics, using the paddle boats, and even holding hands… Families seemed very happy and all the children smiled and waved at the group of Soldiers (we might have been just as interesting as the animals).

The Baghdad zoo was built in 1971 and was the largest zoo in the Middle East hosting 1.5 million visitors a year and 600 animals. During the 2003 invasion, the Iraqi Republican Guard troops used the zoo as a defensive position – following the invasion, only 35 animals remained.

The zoo and surrounding park reopened to the public on July 20, 2003 and was the home to 86 animals. Conservation organizations such as the Born Free Foundation, Wild Aid, Care for the Wild, the International Fund for Animal Warfare, the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, and the World Society for the Protection of Animals to restore the zoo and improve the health of the animals.

Currently, there are over 500 animals at the zoo representing 100 species; many from private zoos owned by the Hussein family.

I spent some time getting to know some monkeys; made it to feeding time for the lions (nine lions vs. three donkeys each day); and hung out with Mr Hussein’s private horse.

It was a nice and almost normal day.

GEORGE

1 comment:

drowne@wildlifealliance.org said...

Very glad to hear that the Baghdad Zoo is on the road to recovery and that you were able to have a rather enjoyable visit.

My brother has noted that being around an animal, be it wildlife or a neighborhood dog, while stationed overseas has provided him and members of his unit with a calm in the storm, if you will.

I work for Wildlife Alliance - we operate the conservation and wildlife protection programs formerly carried out under the name WildAid, in Southeast Asia, Russia, and the marine seascapes of the Western Pacific. The Angkor Zoo was recently closed due to various less-than-charming issues. Of the 250+ animals, many were able to be relocated to the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center, 40km south of Phnom Pehn in Cambodia. If you ever get a chance to travel to SEA, we invite you to stop by and learn about the wildlife. Many of the animals were rescued from the illegal wildlife trade.

Best wishes!