July 20, 2003

Baghdad's Zoo Is Open Once More

From Reuters

Keena the lion cub got her first visitors in months Saturday as Baghdad's zoo reopened to the public after bombs and looters took their toll during the U.S.-led war on Iraq.

Growling and snarling, the 7-month-old cub glared at the few Iraqis who braved the sweltering July heat to visit the 2,000-acre park.

"She's just a bit nervous, she's not used to so many people," the zoo's interim administrator, Lawrence Anthony, said as he stroked Keena's paws.

"The lions, like all the animals, were half-starved when we found them and rattled by the bombs and bullets, but now they're starting to settle down."

Emad Abbas and his 2-year-old son Ali were among the first visitors to amble in, and the former Iraqi soldier said the zoo looked better than it had in years.

"Ali wanted to see the animals," he said. "We haven't been able to enter this park for many months, but now it looks good. Saddam deprived us of so much."

Ted Morse, Coalition Provisional Authority coordinator for the Baghdad region, urged Iraqis to protect the facility, which now bristles with American troops and Iraqi security men.

"This park is for families, this park is for friends, and it is especially for children," he told a crowd of applauding Iraqi zoo workers and visitors at the opening ceremony. "Let's make this a protected park and a learning park for all."

The Baghdad Zoo was once the largest in the Middle East, boasting 450 animals from all over the world.

Now, just 80 are left. Many were killed by the U.S. bombing, carried off by looters or eaten by Iraqis impoverished by 12 years of U.N. sanctions.

A pair of pigs rooted in buckets of slop in a cage that once housed turkeys. Ducks shared a feeding tray with a few pelicans, and a bedraggled bear that had been let loose during the war paced around his renovated home.

Funding from organizations such as the American Zoo and Aquarium Assn. and the International Fund for Animal Welfare has hBaghdad's Zoo Is Open Once More.ems elped rebuild the zoo. Many animals were brought in recently from private menageries in Baghdad, including several lions that belonged to Uday, a son of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Original URL: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/iraq/complete/la-fg-zoo20jul20,1,1089114.story?coll=la-iraq-complete

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