Saving the Baghdad Zoo
By Kelly Milner Halls and
Major William Sumner
“Contrary to televisions and newspaper reports, the zoo had not been torn apart by stray explosive. Animals had not been killed by military fire or missiles. But only thirty-two of the five hundred creatures once on display were still caged. Hundreds were missing, butchered for food or stolen for sale as exotic pets on the Iraqi lack market. Even two giraffes, new residents delivered the day before the first bombs fell, had simply vanished.”
Setting out on his mission to archive the priceless relics remaining in the Baghdad Archaeological Museum, Captain William Sumner of the U.S. Army 354th Civil Affairs Brigade didn’t know his mission was about to change. A detour to investigate the state of the Baghdad Zoo set Captain Sumner on a journey to save the few remaining starving, caged animals left following the exit of Saddam Hussein and his family.
Working with loyal zookeepers, relief organizations, the U.S. Army, and a legion of others, Captain Sumner worked to rescue and feed the abandoned zoo animals left. Case by case, individual animals and their subsequent fate are explored in the text and the exceptional efforts of the caregivers are detailed both in the text and sidebars.
Remarkable photos highlight the plight of the rescued animals and show their situation today. The Baghdad Zoo is again open to the people of Iraq and is a symbol of the hopes for safety and freedom for Iraq, a small sanctuary for the people who live among uncertainty of a country struggling to right itself.
This story is the first book to show this story and it is heart wrenching to read. The one quibble I have with the book is the introductory sidebar introducing a political point of view through a criticism of the invasion. I feel the book would have been stronger as a zoo rescue story set amid a war torn country without politics setting the tone initially. That, perhaps, should be another book. But whatever the views on the war, the heart of this story is the humanity, and that is its main focus. Saving the Baghdad Zoo is a remarkable book with a fascinating story of hope.
Activity 1 (younger audience)
Research the daily food needs for five of the animals from the book. Create a bar graph to show the differences in the requirements.
Activity 2 (older audience)
Choose an animal highlighted in the book. Trace the life cycle of the animal from gestation to adulthood, using quantitative data you researched.
Zoo update from North Carolina zoo (most recent I could find)
National Science Standards: Structure and function in living systems, reproduction and heredity
Book donated by publisher through Librarian’s Choices Committee, TWU