Baghdad Zoo Relief
During 2003, the N.C. Zoo and Zoo Society, raised nearly $100,000 to assist in rebuilding the war-torn Baghdad Zoo. The Zoo closed in 2002 for renovation. While closed, military necessity converted it to a quasi-military base. At the time coalition forces took control of the property, only about 12 of the original 600 animals remained. In July of 2003, the facility reopened in an effort to return a degree of normal life to Iraqi citizens.
Three officials, considered critical in the restoration of that zoo--Capt. William Sumner, Brendan Whittington Jones and Farah Murrani –have traveled to Asheboro to share their experiences since the United States occupation.
Sumner was attached to the 354th Civil Affairs Brigade and was the officer in charge of the zoo and national museum in Baghdad. There, he had to deal with the theft of museum artifacts, escaped animals and stolen zoo equipment that was well publicized when Saddam Hussein was overthrown.
Whittington-Jones, a game ranger from Thula Thula Reserve in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa, assisted his boss, Lawrence Anthony, who was the first non-Iraqi to get into the Baghdad Zoo. Brendan worked for more than a year from summer 2003 to summer 2004 at the Baghdad Zoo helping to oversee reconstruction of the devastated animal exhibits and establishing new protocols for animal care and educational outreach programs.
Murrani is currently the senior veterinarian and deputy director of Baghdad Zoo and also founder of the new Iraqi Animal Welfare Society. She was connected with the zoo before and after the occupation and was able to do an educational tour in the United States including internships with the NC Zoo and with the Cheyenne Zoo in Colorado.
At the time it reopened, the Baghdad Zoo featured 86 animals, many of whom were previously part of private collections.