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Troops save six lions, cheetah from Uday’s zoo

Baghdad, April 25 (Reuters): US troops today came to the rescue of six young lions and two cheetahs languishing uncared for in the private zoo of Saddam Hussein’s eldest son, Uday.

Under the watch of a dozen armed soldiers, the animals were coaxed into cages with lumps of raw meat and taken by military truck from the fenced compound in Uday’s section of his father’s Baghdad palace to a new home in the city’s main zoo.

Uday, known for his love of fierce animals, fast cars and beautiful women, has owned several lions, tigers and cheetahs, some of them gifts from friendly foreign governments. Like his father, he disappeared without a trace during the US-led invasion.

South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony, who organised the operation with Iraqi and Kuwaiti zoo workers and US soldiers, said the patch of grass lined with cages was “cruelly unsuitable” for the lion cubs and cheetahs. “It’s nothing more than a macho game reserve,” he said. “The animals are in a bad way.”

US soldiers have secured Baghdad zoo since it was looted of most animals in the mayhem after Saddam’s rule collapsed.

The thieves left the zoo’s lions and tigers alone, but the big cats went unfed for days and US soldiers shot dead four hungry lions when they escaped from their enclosure last weekend. Anthony said a lioness at one of Uday’s other residences had given birth to cubs which were in danger of being crushed by male lions in a cage too small for them.

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