Baghdad’s ravaged zoo comes back to life

While emerging from years of violence, al-Zawraa Park remains vulnerable

updated 9:18 a.m. ET, Tues., Nov . 17, 2009

BAGHDAD – More than six years after the U.S. invasion left Iraq’s main zoo a wasteland of starving animals and deserted cages, the park in central Baghdad is enjoying a vigorous revival and needs to grow.

Few Iraqis ventured into Baghdad Zoo during the violence that surged after the 2003 invasion. But as the bombings and shootings receded, families started to return in droves — so many, in fact, that officials are now desperate to expand the park which is home for the zoo to make space for them all.

The zoo has replaced the hundreds of animals that escaped, were stolen, died of thirst or hunger or were shot by U.S. troops and now has 1,070 animals, said the director general of parks and gardens, Salah Abu al-Lail.

“In the coming days we will receive an elephant and a giraffe. Their arrival will complete our collection of animals living in the zoo,” he said.

The al-Zawraa park containing the zoo — once the largest in the Middle East — now teems with families on Fridays.

A sharp fall in overall violence in Iraq over the past 18 months and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from city centers in June has restored a tentative normality to the daily lives of many Iraqis. Attacks by insurgents, including massive suicide bombings in which dozens die, remain common, however.

“When security improved, we started to live our normal lives again after a dark period of violence,” said teacher Basima Abbas, visiting the zoo with her children. “We want to live normal lives like everyone else in the world.”

The Zawraa Park is guarded inside by special police units assigned to government facilities. Visitors are frisked for weapons while bags and picnic baskets are checked for explosives. During holidays, all roads leading to the park are closed.

Feeling safe
The measures have persuaded people that the park is safe.

In 2005, around 200,000 people visited the park over the three or four-day Muslim festival of Eid. But this year, 3 million Iraqis from all over the country swarmed into its 400 acres during the holiday at the start of October, said Abu al-Lail.

“I expect the number of visitors to the park by the end of the year will number 8 million, from all Iraqi cities,” he said. The numbers could not be verified.

Visitors to the zoo pay a small fee, equivalent to around 40 U.S. cents. The animals — which include lions, tigers, monkeys and ostriches — are kept in new cages and appear well-fed. A small train carries families around the park.

The surging popularity of the zoo and park have prompted park officials to ask the government to return 350 acres of land that had been swallowed up by the Green Zone, a district of government offices and embassies once controlled by U.S. forces.

That section of the park contained a theater, a cinema and an aircraft museum, behind the Crossed Swords monument where Saddam Hussein’s military forces used to parade. They should be returned to public use, said Abu al-Lail.


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Chile: Zoo holds contest to name 3 tiger cubs

Inician concurso para bautizar tres ejemplares de tigres de bengala en Parque Zoológico Concepción

20/10/2009 17:07

CONCEPCIóN, Chile, Oct 20 (UPI) — El Parque Zoológico Concepción abrió este martes un concurso para bautizar a los tres ejemplares de tigres de bengala variedad canela, que llegaron al recinto provenientes del Zoológico Metropolitano de Santiago.

Se trata de dos machos y una hembra, hermanos que tienen 14 semanas de edad y que pertenecerán al zoológico penquista ubicado en sector de Valle Nonguén, el que cuenta con cerca de 300 animales y cuatro hectáreas de instalaciones.

Según el médico veterinario del parque, Álvaro Robles Sepúlveda, el objetivo de buscar nombres para los nuevos cachorros es aproximar a los más pequeños al mundo animal, ya que “la idea es que los niños traigan sus propuestas acompañadas de un dibujo para luego exponer sus obras en un mural gigante”.

Asimismo, Robles explicó que los tigres bengala sean variedad canela, “significa que poseen un porcentaje del gen recesivo blanco y si se cruzan con un macho o hembra blanco hay una alta probabilidad de que la camada sea blanca”.

Las propuestas se recibirán hasta la última semana de noviembre y los ganadores recibirán un regalo.

El Parque Zoológico Concepción, además tiene osos, felinos, cebras, leones, wallabies (canguros enanos), aves rapaces y una laguna artificial con aves nativas de Chile.


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Two lions kill deer at National Zoo

At the zoo, no escape for a deer in the lions’ den

By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 9, 2009

A deer that jumped a wall at the National Zoo was fatally injured by two lions Sunday as dozens of startled spectators looked on.

Zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson described the incident as highly unusual. It began about 2:50 p.m. as visitors lined the perimeter wall of an enclosure that contained two female lions, and it involved a deer that may have entered from Rock Creek Park.

“Everyone was cheering, ‘Go, go, go’ ” to encourage the deer to reach safety, witness Josh Shpayher said. “Everyone was rooting for the deer.”

As recounted by witnesses, the deer, over as much as 20 minutes, was in and out of a moat while the lions clutched, clawed or swatted it. A crowd of spectators grew. Some shrieked, cried out or took children away.

The incident began, said witness Rob Ephraim, when the deer “ran between people” at the railing of the low wall around the sunken enclosure.

“It was running and it leaped,” he said. After a hoof apparently clipped the railing, the deer plunged into the green, leaf-strewn water of the moat at the bottom of the wall. One lion went in after the deer and “jumped on it,” Ephraim said.

The deer escaped, “then [got] caught again,” Ephraim said.

As the episode neared its end, one lion dragged the deer to a stairwell area. The deer, a female, broke free and bounded toward the moat, the lion in pursuit.

Zoo personnel sent visitors away and got the lions indoors. With the enclosure empty, the deer left the moat on its own. It was anesthetized and taken for evaluation by specialists.

They found it “pretty evident” that the deer “would not survive,” and it was euthanized, Baker-Masson said.

Shpayher said he arrived in the middle of the incident, as the crowd was swelling to at least 100 people.

When he asked what was happening, he said a woman told him that “a deer jumped in and the lions got him.”

Video footage shows the deer seeming to wriggle from a lion’s grasp and flee, with no obvious wounds.

But Baker-Masson said an examination indicated that besides head and neck scratches, the deer had a serious wound on its belly.

Many deer live in Rock Creek Park, where the zoo is located, and many have been spotted on the zoo grounds. But it is highly unusual for a deer to get into an enclosure, Baker-Masson said.

A video of the incident, shot by Ephraim and Christy Smethers, can be found at

Staff writer Amy Argetsinger contributed to this report.


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Two exotic cats escape from former home of breeder

Bobcat captured at former home of breeder
By Ashley Meeks Sun-News reporter
Posted: 11/07/2009 12:00:00 AM MST

LAS CRUCES – A bobcat was captured at the former home of an exotic cat breeder Thursday and another large cat is still on the loose, according to Doña Ana Sheriff’s Department investigators.

The bobcat was isolated in a tree and shot with a tranquilizer dart to capture it without injury, after which it was transported to the Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley, and is expected to be sent to a sanctuary, said Doña Ana County Animal Control Director Curtis Childress.

A second, slightly larger cat – possibly a pregnant bobcat or small mountain lion – may have escaped the residence before investigators arrived. The residence is north of Las Cruces on King Edward Avenue, near the intersection of Doña Ana Road and West Taylor Road.

The cat on the loose is not a threat to humans unless cornered or harassed, but anyone who sees it should call 911. Traps have been set, but children and small pets are recommended to be kept indoors until the cat is captured.

There have already been two sightings of the other cat, Childress said – while officers were trying to get the male bobcat down from the tree, the second cat was spotted lounging on top of the animal control truck.

“We do not believe it is an animal that belonged to her. It is possible her bobcat could have attracted this animal in the area,” Childress said.

The 600 block of King Edward Avenue has been under surveillance since June when authorities relieved renter Kelli Perras, a former cat breeder, of 35 exotic cats, including 10 pregnant females.

Perras was evicted and moved into an apartment in the city, where Perras unlawfully kept four exotic cats, two servals and a bobcat, Childress said.

City Animal Control Supervisor Rudy Adame confirmed Perras was cited in October for having non-permitted animals and allowing them to run loose, both misdemeanors.

State wildlife officials transported the servals to a sanctuary in Kingman, Ariz., Childress said, but Perras appears to have taken the bobcat back to King Edward Drive, where the home-owners discovered it when they arrived to clean.

Do-a Ana County residents are allowed to own up to six domestic animals without a permit, or 15 if they have a multi-animal permit.

Perras did not have such a permit, nor did she have a permit for possessing a fur-bearing animal, said DASO Sgt. Joe Reynaud. Such permits are not likely to be granted, Childress said.

“We are not going to give a permit for the animals to be in Do-a Ana County and, as I understand it, the state is not inclined to give her a permit,” Childress said. “Given her inability to be able to contain (the cats) in a facility where they can’t get loose, I’m not going to subjugate the public to even the remotest possibility of being injured by the animals.”

County animal control officers continue to capture other, exotic-looking domestic cats from the residence. The investigation is ongoing and will be reviewed by wildlife officers to see if possession of the bobcats constitutes state or federal violations.

The exotic cats removed in June – Bengals (seven generations removed from a cross with a Leopard Cat) and Savannahs (seven generations removed from a cross with a serval, a cheetah-like cat) – were valued at $800 to $1,200, a family member said at the time. They were transported to the Humane Society of the White Mountains in Lakeside, Ariz., about 130 miles northeast of Phoenix, so that they would not be euthanized.

Ashley Meeks can be reached at; (575) 541-5462


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Florida: Tired of your lion? Give it up

The Tampa Tribune

Published: November 7, 2009

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission workers are holding an amnesty event today where unwanted nonnative pets can be handed over with no questions asked.

The program is offered only a few times a year in cities across the state. Today’s event at Busch Gardens is co-sponsored by the city of Plant City. Exotic pets may be brought to the parking lot at the northeast corner of McKinley Drive and Bougainvillea Avenue, between Adventure Island and Busch Gardens, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The goal is to get unwanted, nonnative pets into homes of adoptive owners and keep them off the streets and out of the woods behind the houses, where some species can infringe on the habitat of native animals. Nonnative reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish, mammals and invertebrates are welcome. Domestic pets such as dogs, cats or ferrets will not be accepted. Wildlife experts also will be on hand to help exotic-pet owners who don’t wish to give up their pets but want advice.

A staff report


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