The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Baghdad’s big cats left to die

Baghdad, April 17 (Reuters): Even the animals have gone. Baghdad’s frenzied looting spree has left nothing untouched, and the city zoo is no exception.

Monkeys, bears, horses, birds and camels have disappeared, carted off by thieves or simply left to roam the streets after their cages were prised open. More than 300 animals are missing — only the lions and tigers remain. The big cats, who were obviously too fearsome for the robbers, have been left neglected and starving in their enclosures.

In the days since US troops entered the Iraqi capital, looters have ruled the amusement park in which Baghdad Zoo stands, roaming the site with rifles and crowbars and making off with anything of value.

“I am frightened to come here,” said the zoo’s vet Hashim Mohamed Hussein as gunfire crackled from across the park today.

“But I have to see my animals. They are hungry but we have no money to feed them.”

Mandor, a 20-year-old Siberian tiger and the personal property of Saddam Hussein’s eldest son Uday, was slumped against the green bars of his cage, his beautifully-marked coat hanging off his bones. He looked up briefly as the vet approached, only to hang his head again when he realised his keeper was empty-handed.

Next door, Sudqa, a nine-year-old lioness, got to her feet and let out a low moan. The remnants of her last meal lay in the corner, a white bone chewed over and over.

Hussein said in all there were seven lions and two tigers, who each consume some five kilograms of meat a day. “Five kilograms of meat would cost me 80,000 dinars ($30),” said Hussein. “And there are nine animals. I have nothing like this kind of money.”

He said the animals were last fed properly 10 days ago, just before US forces entered Baghdad. Spent casings of shells and bullets outside the zoo and a burnt-out Iraqi armoured personnel carrier are proof of the invasion.

The Americans quickly swept through the west of the city, said Hussein, leaving the area in the hands of looters, who grabbed chimpanzees, Vervet monkeys, Pekinese dogs, love birds and cockatoos.

Off the main road, one of the zoo’s camels grazes on a patch of scrub.

“The bears have gone too, I don’t know if they took them or just let them go,” said Hussein, who said he was also concerned for the well-being of Uday’s even bigger collection of lions and tigers at his Baghdad residence.

With no US presence in the park, would-be looters are on the prowl. One group was trying to uproot a large generator next to the model railway, ignoring Hussein’s cries of disgust.

“There is no government, no security, no organisation,” Hussein said. “We are alone here and without help our animals will die.”

The zoo was shut and was under renovation before the war began. It had even escaped damage during the 1991 allied blitz on Baghdad.

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