By Prashant Rao (AFP)
Baghdad's Al-Zawraa zoo is enjoying a boom, and not just in attendance -- its Siberian tigers gave birth to twins this summer, part of a rush of new arrivals swelling the park's population.
From the dark days of 2003, in the aftermath of the US-led invasion which left the zoo in shambles, the central Baghdad attraction is enjoying a surge in visitor numbers as security in the capital improves and its animal population soars.
"It means a lot to me," the zoo's director Adil Salman Mousa says, as the twin tigers, who have not yet been named, prowl and play behind him.
"After the war, we reached a point where the US told us to close the zoo because there was nothing left, but we were convinced we could bring it back."
The 53-year-old proudly lists the accomplishments at Al-Zawraa in recent years: in addition to the Siberian tiger babies, who are three months old, the zoo has also seen the birth of a Bengal tiger, now aged two months, as well as bears, gazelles and stags.
Then there are the animals the zoo has received from around the world: two jaguars arrived just days ago and are in quarantine, while other new arrivals include crocodiles and chimpanzees, with zebras due within days and giraffes and elephants on the way next year.
In all, Al-Zawraa houses more than 1,000 animals, a far cry from the dozen or so in the immediate aftermath of the invasion, when hundreds of beasts were killed, stolen or died of hunger and thirst in their cages.
At the time, shortly after the invasion, Mousa returned to the zoo, once the biggest in the Middle East, at great personal risk to try and save the few surviving animals, and in time, he secured overseas funds and support from international conservationists to build it up again.The growth in animal numbers has paralleled an increase in the number of visitors as Baghdad and Iraq have become safer -- Read the rest here
More good news from Iraq! Hat Tip to General Ray Odierno - who wrote: .... a story about Baghdad's al-Zawraa Zoo, which has become a popular attraction for Iraqis. As the security continues to improve in Iraq, Iraqis are working to return to a normal way of life. The zoo's popularity demonstrates the country's commitment and resolve to make life better for its citizens.