art, human rights poem, international relations, war

Human Rights Poem (83): The Baghdad Zoo

Tiger in Baghdad Zoo

Tiger in Baghdad Zoo


The Baghdad Zoo, by Brian Turner

An Iraqi northern brown bear mauled a man
on a streetcorner, dragging him down an alley
as shocked onlookers cried for it to stop.
There were tanks rolling their heavy tracks
past the museum and up to the Ministry of Oil.
One gunner watched a lion chase down a horse.
Eaten down to their skeletons, the giraffes
looked prehistoric, unreal, their necks
too fragile, too graceful for the 21st Century.
Dalmatian pelicans and marbled teals
flew over, frightened by the rotorwash
of blackhawk helicopters touching down.
One baboon even escaped from the city limits.
It was found wandering in the desert, confused
by the wind and the sand of the barchan dunes.

During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Baghdad zoo was completely destroyed.

For their own safety, zoo workers suspended feeding the animals in early April 2003, when Fedayeen Saddam troops took up defensive positions around the zoo as U.S. forces began the battle of Baghdad. Out of the original 650 to 700 animals in the Baghdad Zoo only 35 had survived to the eighth day of the invasion, and these tended to be some of the larger animals.

During the absence of zoo staff and officials, the zoo suffered from severe looting. Cages were torn open by thieves who released or took hundreds of animals and birds. Zoo staff claimed most of the birds and game animals were taken for food as pre-war food shortages in Baghdad were exacerbated by the invasion.

Many animals were found roaming the zoo grounds. The remaining animals were found in critical condition, dying of thirst and starving in their cages, including Mandor, a 20-year-old Siberian tiger that was the personal property of Uday Hussein, and Saida, a blind brown bear.

Several lions escaped from the abandoned zoo and were rounded up by American soldiers in armored fighting vehicles. Four that would not return to their cages were shot by the soldiers. (source)

More on Iraq here. More human rights poems here.


3 thoughts on “Human Rights Poem (83): The Baghdad Zoo

  1. Debbie says:

    Filip, I am a person with a true heart who cares very deeply about what happened not only to the zoo animals, but to your country. I just had read on the Internet that water has been a very serious problem in Iraq. If you have friends, family or any networking acquaintances in Iraq, please encourage them to take their families and animals and leave, find a place where the water is healthy and plentiful, and there are trees. I give you my heartfelt blessings. There are still some good souls in this world, although not many.

  2. Pingback: The War on Terror is 11 Years Old Today, With No End in Sight | P.a.p.-Blog, Human Rights Etc.

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