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Baghdad Zoo

Lawrence Anthony, recipient of the prestigious Earth Trustee Award by the United Nations, is an internationally acclaimed conservationist from South Africa who owns and lives on an exclusive private game reserve with his wife.

Until recently, Lawrence's primary environmental work has been in the field of rehabilitation of traumatized wild elephant. He has such an extraordinary relationship with a herd of wild African elephant on his reserve that CNN and a number of other major media have come there to film him with them, and, based on this, the media has dubbed him "The Elephant Whisperer". Whereas they would kill any other human who comes too close to them, they excitedly run to Lawrence when he calls them, touch him, and enjoy just standing around and being with him. Whereas they rarely come up to the house where he lives, every time he returns from any trip the whole herd always comes up to his house to greet him. One night he missed his flight; the herd came as far as the garden gate and perceived he wasn't there and left. The next night when he returned, they came back to see him. People are generally astonished at this and can't figure out how the elephants know that he is returning.

When the Iraqi war started, Lawrence, completely on his own initiative, went to Baghdad to rescue the animals in the Baghdad Zoo, living there in the middle of the war for 5 � months. At the beginning of the war the zoo had been the largest in the Middle East - with over 800 animals, including a prized collection of tigers. Lawrence arrived 9 days after the coalition forces had entered Baghdad and found that there were only 35 animals left. Most had been stolen by looters for food or sale. The rest had died from bombs, bullets, dehydration and starvation. The story is extraordinary. A book called Babylon's Ark was written about the story and a major Hollywood feature film is currently being produced about his heroism.

The reviews of the book so far have been excellent, and just put the book on their website as one of the top 12 "must read" books for 2007. Here is a review from Publisher's Weekly:

December 15, 2006
Terrific tale about how Iraqis , a South African conservationist and American soldiers saved the animals of the Baghdad Zoo.
In April 2003, in the opening days of the Iraq War, the Baghdad Zoo was bombed, its animals released or taken. Watching the war unfold on television, South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony became determined to travel to Baghdad and save what animals he could. Upon arrival, Anthony discovered Dr. Husham Hussan, the zoo's vet, daily risking his life in an effort to feed and hydrate the few remaining creatures, including a Bengal tiger, a blind brown bear, several lions, a lynx and a few boars. Baboons, monkeys and various birds, all of whom had escaped their damaged cages, freely wandered the zoo grounds. With the zoo's water pumps broken, the two men ferried water to the parched animals bucketful by bucketful from a nearby canal, an all-day job in 115- degree heat. Although still engaged in combat, American soldiers offered to help, giving the animals their MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), and "liberating" crucial supplies, ranging from cleaning solvents to generators to food for the zoo staff. In addition to saving the zoo's animals, Anthony and his team rescued lions from one of Saddam's son's "love nests," closed down a black-market exotic-animal ring and rounded up some of Saddam's prized Arabian horses. Happily, the zoo's future was secured when coalition forces offered to rebuild the zoo and the surrounding Al Zawra Park as a symbol of goodwill toward the Iraqi people.
A wartime story with a joyful ending. . .

The Earth Organization, with the publisher, is putting on two events in March for anyone who would like to meet this "larger than life" man. (As an aside, Lawrence just returned 3 months ago from the Sudan where he met with Generals from the Lords Resistance Army and got their agreement to stop killing Game Rangers in the area who were trying to protect the very last of the Northern White Rhino.) People attending these events will get to hear some marvelous stories from a real life "Indiana Jones of Conservation" , as well as see media news programs of Lawrence in Baghdad and with the elephants on his reserve. Lawrence will be signing copies of his book Babylon's Ark for attendees.

Barbara Wiseman is the International President of The Earth Organization. For further information, she can be contacted at:
cell: 818 769-3410
email: [email protected]

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