Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Animals in war zones

Few people would disagree that we have a moral obligation to help our fellow human beings in need but do our obligations stop there?

By no stretch of the imagination should the welfare of animals come before the welfare of humans. However, that is not to say the welfare of animals is to be disregarded.

The awful toll of warfare on humans is all too well known. The toll on domestic and caged wild animals is less known and appreciated. This is an excerpt from a new book by conservationist Lawrence Anthony about what he found at the Baghdad zoo in 2003:
My first instinct was to find a rifle and shoot the lot. In all my years in the African bush and in conservation, I had never seen wildlife in such wretched condition. The lions were so desiccated they could not drink. When a zookeeper got water to them, they just dunked their mouths in the trough, trying to loosen their swollen tongues. The bears, one of which was blind, were pacing up and down their cages like demented robots. The tigers, whose once-shiny pelts were now as faded as doormats, stared at me listlessly. One of the cheetah had a suppurating wound, infested with flies. In her debilitated state, it would not heal.

These were the lucky ones. Of the 650 animals and birds at the Baghdad zoo - once the finest in the Middle East - only 35 had survived. They were the ones who had come through the battle between American soldiers and Iraqi Republican Guards that raged around their cages for weeks. They were the ones with teeth and claws sharp enough to fight back when looting hordes later stormed the zoo, killing or kidnapping every antelope, ostrich, monkey, and even two giraffes. Lovebirds and macaws had their necks wrung and were eaten like chickens.
Anthony, along with the help of many people putting themselves at great risk, were able to save these animals. You can read the rest of the excerpt here.

Based upon his experience, he founded The Earth Organization – a grass-roots conservation organization to raise awareness of the plight of animals around the world.

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