Baghdad Zoo reopens with Uday’s maneating lions
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2003:
BAGHDAD–Back under Iraqi management, the Baghdad Zoo
reopened to the public on July 20, 2003, featuring 86 animals,
including all 19 surviving lions from the previous zoo collection,
the much smaller privately owned Lunar Park zoo, and the personal
menagerie of Uday Hussein, elder son of the deposed dictator Saddam
Hussein, who was killed in a firefight by U.S. troops on July 22
along with his brother Qusay and two other men not yet positively
SkyNews of Britain reported on July 28 that at least some of
Uday’s lions are confirmed man-eaters. A 36-year-old man calling
himself Abu Ahmad, who said he worked for Uday as an executioner,
described to SkyNews how he and Uday fed two 19-year-old students to
his lions alive after they “competed with Uday where some young
ladies were concerned.”
Objecting that 19 lions were too many, Care for the Wild, the
International Fund for Animal Welfare, and the Wildlife Action Group
of South Africa all told news media including ANIMAL PEOPLE that a
lionness named Zena who birthed five cubs just as U.S. troops were
storming Uday’s former compound would be taken to South Africa, with
her cubs, for release into semi-freedom at the SanWild sanctuary.
But Baghdad Zoo director Dr. Adel Salman Mousa told
Melanie-Ann Feris of the Johannesburg Star that “The animals are all
under the care and close supervision of coalition and local
veterinarians, as well as professional zoo management, so we see no
urgent need for immediate relocation on medical or other grounds.”
Though the Baghdad Zoo facilities are “Victorian,” and “was
functioning like an amusement park,” it has five staff veterinarians
and 32 keepers, said Wildlife Trust of India wildlife rescue program
coordinator N.V.K. Ahsraf, DVM.
Ahsraf, whose passion is trying to save the seldom seen and
almost extinct Malabar civet, was sponsored in Iraq by the
International Fund for Animal Welfare. IFAW also sent British vet
Jason Thrupp and former U.S. diplomat Ahmed Khan, who now heads the
IFAW office in Kenya.
Lawrence Anthony, director of the Thula Thula private game
reserve in South Africa, was reportedly the first civilian relief
worker allowed into Baghdad after the U.S. invasion. As the first
qualified person on the scene, Anthony was named interim zoo
director. Stephen Bognar of the San Francisco charity WildAid
arrived soon afterward, followed by the IFAW team, Care For The
Wild director Barbara Maas, and World Society for the Protection of
Animals veterinarian John Gripper.
Closed by Saddam Hussein for “renovation” a year before the
April 2003 U.S. invasion, the zoo was turned into a quasi-military
base. The animal collection, dwindled to about 450 from a peak of
800, lost another 370 animals during the year, who were apparently
stolen to be eaten or clandestinely sold.
Deon Delport of the Independent in Cape Town, South Africa,
reported that Anthony also “set up Iraq’s first SPCA,” but no one
else seemed to know anything about it.
[Contact the official Baghdad Zoo relief effort at Aid to
Baghdad Zoo, c/o David Jones, Director, North Carolina Zoological
Society, 4403 Zoo Parkway, Ashe-boro, NC 27205; <www.nc-zoo.com>.
Donations may be designated to help dogs, cats, equines, and
livestock, as well as exotic species.]