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.


Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at

Romanian zoo lions will go to U.K. thanks to tabloid readers

GRRR – EEN light for lion rescue
Pride is saved by generous NOTW readers campaign

By Phillip Whiteside, 15/11/2009

A PRIDE of neglected lions rescued by kind- hearted News of the World readers has at last been given the go-ahead to come to Britain.

We received an amazing £120,000 in donations after our appeal to save more than a dozen lions held in cramped cages at a rundown Romanian zoo.

They could not be moved until council chiefs in the town of Oradea agreed to give their blessing.

But now transport can be arranged to move the pride to the Yorkshire Wildlife Park, at Branton, near Doncaster, south Yorks, in January.

Park manager John Minion said: “This is a great relief. We got a letter from Romania last week giving permission for the move.”

The park has just enough cash to rescue the lions, but they hope to reach the £150,000 target to build a new home for the lucky big cats.

To make a donation go to


Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at

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.


Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at

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.


Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at

Lynx escapes from German zoo

The lynx escaped on Thursday, has been spotted several times, and is believed to still be in the vicinity of the zoo.

Tierpark fahndet weiter nach jungem Luchs
OZ/LOKAL/HWI vom 09.11.2009 14:03

Die aus dem Tierpark Wismar entlaufene junge Luchsdame konnte bisher noch nicht wieder eingefangen werden. Jetzt helfen die Bürger bei der Suche. Zahlreiche Anrufe mit Hinweisen gingen bereits ein.

Wismar (OZ) – „Am Sonntagabend war ich schon sehr nah dran, ihn einzufangen“, sagte gestern Tierparkchef Michael Werner. Gegen 20 Uhr rief ein Bewohner vom Köppernitztal an. Er hatte gerade seinen Müll entsorgt, als er den Luchs die Böschung zum Köppernitztal hinunter laufen sah. „Ich bin sofort hin und habe gehofft, dass er mich hört und ich im Schein meiner großen Taschenlampe die Katzenaugen gut erkennen kann. Leider hat’s nicht geklappt.“ Für Michael Werner ist es am wahrscheinlichsten, dass sich der Luchs noch in der Nähe des Tierparks aufhält.
Die Direktor hofft weiter auf Hinweise. Wer ihn anruft, möge an Ort und Stelle, wo er den Luchs gesehen hat, warten, bis der Tierparkchef eingetroffen ist. Bereits seit Donnerstag ist das Tier entlaufen.

Haike Werfel


Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at