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Babylon's Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo Paperback – July 8, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Anthony, a South African conservationist and recipient of the U.N.'s Earth Day award, details how, through a series of complex maneuvers, he entered Iraq after the American invasion and led the fight to save what was left of the Baghdad Zoo. Most of the animals were killed by war and looting; the remainder were starved and in filthy cages, with no staff to care for them. Anthony describes how he, along with the zoo's former deputy director and several brave workers, risked daily danger to save the bears, lions, tigers, monkeys and birds. Anthony fended off looters with a gun obtained from a sympathetic U.S. soldier, spent his own funds for equipment and bartered the use of a satellite phone for food and other essentials. Anthony vividly recounts the rescue of other animals, including the inhabitants of the appalling Luna Park Zoo and Saddam's prize Arabian horses, saved from the hands of black marketeers. The author takes no position on the invasion. His goal is for his mission, so dramatically recounted with journalist Spence's help, to set an example of conservation and respect for animal life. 8 pages of color photos. (Mar. 12)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The story of the rescue of the Baghdad Zoo, once the finest in Arabia, begins with Anthony and two keepers from the Kuwait City Zoo as they find themselves driving the only vehicle attempting to cross the border into Iraq. The Americans had just completed their "shock and awe" campaign, and South African conservationist Anthony knew that the zoo, located in the heart of Baghdad, would need help. In all cases of human hostility, animals get caught in the middle, often suffering horribly, and Anthony felt he had to do something. What follows is a truly remarkable book, as Anthony pulled strings, made connections (legal and illegal), sweet-talked bureaucrats, and made miracles happen as he, with the help of the American military, brought the Baghdad Zoo back from the brink. Ferrying fetid water from canals in buckets "liberated" from a former five-star hotel; feeding the animals moldy vegetables and the soldiers' MREs; defending the zoo from looters; and rescuing the remains of Saddam Hussein's private menagerie, Anthony and his companions somehow made progress. Woven through the narrative is Anthony's obvious love of animals and his anger at what they suffer at the hands of humans, lending a poignancy and immediacy to the story. Nancy Bent
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (July 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312382154
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312382155
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (208 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Herbert L. Mowery on May 20, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I'm currently stationed in Iraq and work at the Baghdad Zoo and wanted to know what the first guys did to get this place back up and running. I heard about this book from a friend who had seen it on, so I thought why not try it. I began to read it and I could actually see all the stuff Lawrence Anthony was talking about. I went back to the zoo a couple days later and sat down with the director and discussed the book with him and asked alot of questions and he told me the same stories. I now have a great outlook on working with this place and the staff, thanks to this wonderful book. If it wasn't for people like Lawrence Anthony doing these amazing things the animals would have died and the zoo would no longer be a part of this city's future. I wrote to Lawrence Anthony after reading this book and told him thank you for all your hard work and dedication to the animals and now we comunicate often and he is planning another trip here to see what progress has been made. I would recommend this book to any animal lover who wants to read about the great lengths some people will go to save them. Thank you again Lawrence.


SFC Herb Mowery

Baghdad, Iraq
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Shannon L. Yarbrough VINE VOICE on May 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm not much of a nonfiction reader, but after hearing about Lawrence Anthony's book on the CBS Sunday Morning News I had to have it. Ever slowed down the car to let a squirrel or goose get out of your way? Ever caught a small bird or mouse in your garage and taken it outside to set free? Although your animal-loving efforts are certainly appreciated, you will never believe the conflicts Anthony faced to save the Baghdad zoo.

Arriving on the cusp of the war, Anthony discovers most of the animals have died of starvation or been stolen by looters. With only 36 animals left, guns firing in the distance, food and supplies stolen, and only a handful of people for a staff, Anthony questions whether he should shoot the animals to end their misery or do what he came to Iraq to do. Save the zoo!

As an outsider, Anthony paints an amazing picture of a war-torn country, surrounded by American troops, but his focus stays on the animals. The story he tells of the animals that have survived, either because they have sharp claws or teeth (or both) and could defend themselves, is just haunting. His struggles to provide food, water, and safety are a never ending battle. It was also good to read how many American soldiers helped provide aide. Some soldier's bought an entire flock of sheep with their own money for Anthony to use as food for the carnivores.

Lawrence was also responsible for setting up an Iraqi SPCA which closed down a black market zoo and rescued tons of animals that were in even worse conditions. They also went in search of Saddam's million-dollar Arabian horses after they came up missing from Saddam's palace, and they rescued a pack of lions from Uday Hussein's abandoned palace.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By R. Durham on April 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Lawrence Anthony took it upon himself to help the captive wildlife in Baghdad shortly after the war in Iraq began. Often, in war, zoo animals suffer horrible fates. They are starved or eaten, and in some cases slaughtered and tortured by soldiers.

This account shows the courage of Anthony and the brave staff of the Iraq zoo who, during a period of lawlessness, did everything they could to help the animals. They dodged bullets every day to get to the zoo where they hauled buckets water in scorching heat, found food in a city that had little, dealt with constant looting, and managed to save what was left of the zoo's inhabitants. Help arrived from sources both expected (animal aid foundations) and unexpected (South African mercenaries, wartime photographers, rank and file army soldiers who fed starving lions their MREs.) The story offers details on what life is like for soldiers and civilians in the red zone, a peek at the former palaces of Saddam and his family, the horrible Middle Eastern black market for exotic animals, and the spirit of the Iraqis who wanted to save their animals.

It's really an amazing book
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By David B Richman on May 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
One thing that can set humans apart from their relatives is that they are quite capable of showing remarkable compassion to other life forms. They unfortunately also can be crueler than other species in ways that are unbelievably ugly. Lawrence Anthony is one of those compassionate people who can make one proud to be human, as much as the crimes against both humans and animals of such pathological personalities as Uday Hussein make one ashamed. In "Babylon's Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo" Anthony tells a riveting story about how he and a team of international zoo and conservation workers, including the incredibly brave Iraqi zoo staff, managed to rescue many of the animals held at the Baghdad Zoo at the start of the Iraq War, as well as Uday Hussein's private zoo and the unspeakable Luna Park "zoo."

To animals at all of these facilities Anthony and his helpers (including some fine young men of the U.S. military and their officers) were angels of mercy. From a blind bear to starving tigers and lions, they bring numerous wild animals back from the brink and gain support for the zoo to be properly maintained for the future. The story of the two dogs still living in a cage of starving lions at Luna Park also lends some credence to the idea that attachment to other species is not totally limited to humans.

Wars tend to dehumanize people and any humane action in the midst of violence can soften the horror to some degree. Anthony and the other workers at the Baghdad Zoo produced something more precious than just saving a few animals- they brought an island of sanity to the insanity of war!

All did not end well- one of the tigers so lovingly saved was shot by a drunken U. S.
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