BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — Families stroll the park’s sidewalks and picnic in the shade as laughing children clamor to see the main attraction — lions once owned by Saddam Hussein’s son, Odai.
Damaged after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the Baghdad Zoo has made a startling comeback, and thousands of Iraqis are flocking here to escape the city’s grungy streets.
The zoo, located in the sprawling Zawra Park in the heart of Baghdad just outside the U.S.-controlled Green Zone, has been held up as an example of American reconstruction efforts. The military brought in new animals, rebuilt damaged exhibits and worked with international zoos and organizations to train the Iraqi zookeepers.
Still, the effects of war are all too plain. Because transporting refrigerated meat is too difficult, donkeys are raised in a fenced-off area. They are euthanized and fed to the lions.
The zoo’s revival coincides with a reduction in violence across the capital. As a result, Iraqis are increasingly going outside for their leisure time.