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Saving the Baghdad Zoo: A True Story of Hope and Heroes

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The baghdad zoo was once home to more than six hundred magnificent animals. But after the war in Iraq began in 2003, the city faced widespread destruction.

When U. S. Army Captain William Sumner was asked to check out the state of the zoo, he found that it, too, was devastated. Hundreds of animals were missing, and the few remaining were in desperate need of care. And so Captain Sumner accepted a new mission. Together with an international team of zoologists, veterinarians, ...

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Overview

The baghdad zoo was once home to more than six hundred magnificent animals. But after the war in Iraq began in 2003, the city faced widespread destruction.

When U. S. Army Captain William Sumner was asked to check out the state of the zoo, he found that it, too, was devastated. Hundreds of animals were missing, and the few remaining were in desperate need of care. And so Captain Sumner accepted a new mission. Together with an international team of zoologists, veterinarians, conservationists, and dedicated animal lovers, Captain Sumner worked tirelessly to save the neglected—but tenacious—animals of Baghdad.

Saving the Baghdad Zoo tells the poignant stories of these remarkable animals. Meet the abandoned lions who roamed an empty palace with no food or drink; the camel, Lumpy, who survived transport through sniper fire; the tigers, Riley and Hope, who traveled 7,000 miles from home; and many more.

The Baghdad Zoo, open once again to the people of Iraq, has become an oasis of hope and safety in a city where both are precious gifts.

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Editorial Reviews

ALA Booklist
“Bolstered with large, beautiful color photos and informative sidebars, this dramatic picture-book-size-photo-essay tells of the U.S. army rescue of zoo animals in the Iraqi war zone.”
The Horn Book
“Moving.”
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—War means bombs falling, buildings destroyed, humans fleeing to safety if they can. But what of zoo animals locked in their cages? As then U.S. Army Captain William Sumner was horrified to discover, they die from lack of food and water, they are butchered for human consumption, and they are stolen by dealers in exotic animals. Or, like those described in this book, they have grittily clung to life in appalling conditions. Asked by a commander to "look at a 'small' zoo" (actually, one of the largest in the Middle East), Sumner discovered a large one, plus three smaller "palace" zoos, and a number of other menageries. Animals were starving, thirsty, and unkempt. Volunteers miraculously appeared; support arose; zoological societies, veterinarians, and international wildlife groups offered aid and advice; and Sumner and his recruits got to work. This book chronicles their efforts—and the rehabilitation—of some of the zoo's residents. Saedia, a nearly blind brown bear who had never felt grass under her feet; Lumpy the camel, starved and dehydrated; and Saddam's personal pet cheetahs are just some of the creatures that appear in these poignant stories. Many color photos, some especially crisp or moving, document the efforts. While the Baghdad Zoo is no sterling example of what a modern zoological park ought to be, it is a shining example of human efforts to provide care and comfort to abandoned animals and to offer a sort of sanctuary to Iraqi residents whose lives have been drastically disrupted. Inspiring, yes, and a tad disturbing, but an important social record.—Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY
Publishers Weekly
This eye-opening tale of compassion and cooperation chronicles the mission of an international team of military personnel, zoo staffers, veterinarians, and relief workers to rescue neglected animals in Baghdad. Sumner, an army major who was deployed to Iraq in 2003 as a civil affairs officer, spearheaded the effort to round up the creatures from the heavily looted Baghdad Zoo, as well as a smaller nearby zoo and the abandoned palace of Saddam Hussein’s son. The animals all found new homes at the main zoo, which was extensively renovated and reopened to the public (“the opening was a sign of hope, a glimpse of normal life”). The collaborators detail several remarkable rescues, including the recovery of 16 rare purebred Arabian horses that had been stolen and hidden in a racetrack’s stables. Sidebars offering facts about various species, historical background, and Sumner’s emotional commentary supplement Halls’s (Dinosaur Parade) narrative, which doesn’t sidestep the ever-present danger. Sobering and uplifting photographs—many taken by Sumner—underscore both the direness of the situation and the spirit of hope that drove the project. Ages 8–up. (Feb.)
Kirkus Reviews
Loaded with reader appeal, these tales of animal rescue focus on the animals but also provide some insight into what Baghdad was like in the wake of the U.S. invasion. Basing her account on numerous interviews-notably with co-author Sumner, then a Captain in the U.S. Army 354th Civil Affairs Brigade, who led international efforts to recapture and safely house wild animals held in the city's zoos-Halls tracks multiple forays into devastated areas in search of creatures that were often starving, thirsty and trapped in hideous conditions. Each outing presented different challenges, from a bear given so much alcohol by drunken zookeepers that it was immune to anesthetic darts to more than a dozen hugely valuable Arabian racehorses held in a compound guarded by probably armed thieves. That's not to mention the difficulties of transport past snipers, providing medical care and finding proper food for pelicans, lions, camels and others. The narrative downplays violence in favor of success stories; that upbeat tone and the many bright, engaging color photos will leave younger audiences more pleased than disturbed. (source notes; introduction and epilogue by the co-author) (Nonfiction. 10-12)
The Horn Book
“Moving.”
ALA Booklist
“Bolstered with large, beautiful color photos and informative sidebars, this dramatic picture-book-size-photo-essay tells of the U.S. army rescue of zoo animals in the Iraqi war zone.”
Children's Literature - Summer Whiting
Major Sumner, a civil affairs officer, was called to Iraq in 2003. He had trained as an archaeologist and was going to work closely with the Iraqis in resurrecting a suppressed heritage, but one particular commander had something different in mind. He asked Major Sumner to look at a small local zoo that, in fact, turned out to be one of the largest in the Middle East. Tigers, lions, hyenas, and several other species were on the verge of death, thanks to the effects of war and looting. Some cages were empty; many other animals had succumbed to starvation. The soldiers making up the 3rd Infantry Division attempted to care for these creatures to the best of their abilities, but the animals desperately needed medical attention and food. This narrative provides an amazing account of the selfless acts committed by a group of dedicated soldiers, doctors, and volunteers. Readers will be fascinated with the story of Saedia, a thirty-two-year-old brown bear, whose blindness prevented her from escaping the unspeakable conditions, and Lumpy, a one-humped camel who was suffering from starvation and dehydration. The heroic acts of these people offer hope in the midst of death and destruction. The photographs not only capture the real-life horror of the animals and their dismal environment, but they also portray the peace that later surrounded each one. This book would complement the elementary social studies, animal and language arts units. It is truly a worthwhile read. Reviewer: Summer Whiting
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061772009
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/9/2010
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 64
  • Age range: 6 - 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.50 (w) x 10.70 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Kelly Milner halls is the author of more than twenty acclaimed books for children. She has also written articles for numerous publications, including Teen People, Highlights for Children, the Chicago Tribune, and the Washington Post. Kelly Milner Halls lives in Spokane, Washington.

Major William Sumner served as a captain with the U.S. Army 354th Civil Affairs Brigade. Since completing his tour of duty in Iraq, Sumner has been assigned to the U.S. Strategic Command and promoted to major. He continues to support efforts at the Baghdad Zoo and has worked with the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield to protect cultural heritage in conflict areas. He holds master's degrees in education and archaeology and is currently pursuing a doctorate in biodefense. Major Sumner lives with his wife and two daughters in Nebraska.

Major William Sumner served as a captain with the U.S. Army 354th Civil Affairs Brigade. Since completing his tour of duty in Iraq, Sumner has been assigned to the U.S. Strategic Command and promoted to major. He continues to support efforts at the Baghdad Zoo and has worked with the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield to protect cultural heritage in conflict areas. He holds master's degrees in education and archaeology and is currently pursuing a doctorate in biodefense. Major Sumner lives with his wife and two daughters in Nebraska.

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