Monday, March 17, 2008

Baghdad Zoo Rebounding With Help from U.S. Vets

In better times, the Baghdad Zoo had more than 500 animals, including giraffes, elephants and exotic birds. But its location, inside Zawra Park in the city's center, put it in the middle of heavy fighting between invading U.S. troops and Saddam Hussein's forces in 2003. U.S. shells damaged the compound and inadvertently freed some animals; looting that followed the fall of Baghdad stripped away everything else. Thousands of North Carolina-based soldiers and Marines are trying to make things as normal as possible for Iraq's people. North Carolina-based veterinarians are trying to ensure that for some animals in that embattled country, life is a zoo. Veterinarians, students and animal researchers across the state are leading the effort to help the Baghdad Zoo -- once the Middle East's largest -- return to its pre-war glory days. The U.S. established a Green Zone in Baghdad that included Zawra Park. Soldiers from the U.S. Army civil affairs were given oversight of the zoo. Cages and pens were rebuilt, and some animals were brought in. Last year, the N.C. Zoological Society raised money to buy computers to send to the zoo and got help from the military in getting an Internet connection. Eventually, zoo staff could use the connection to ask advice on how to treat the animals in their care. While still not up to the standards of most zoos in the United States, the Baghdad Zoo is now an oasis for Iraqis, who stroll with babies amid grass and shade trees. The zoo has lions, camels, monkeys, bears, 23 aquariums' worth of fish, swans, eagles, donkeys, a hyena, a leopard, a fox, a few wolves and dogs. Source: Red Orbit

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