An emaciated lion lying curled up on a rubble-strewn floor; a bear peering through a window, looking scared. These animals, pictured in images posted on social media by activist blogger Mosul Eye this week, are the only two that survived after a Mosul zoo was destroyed in the battle to retake the city from ISIS.
Many people were killed in the fighting, nearly 2,000 Iraqi troops in the month of November alone. As the images posted by Mosul Eye show, zoo animals were also casualties in the conflict.
Before ISIS invaded the city in 2014, the animals were housed in the zoo in a public park along the banks of the Tigris River, a strategic location in the battle for the city. The park was taken over by ISIS and used as a military base, said the blogger, who documented life in the city under ISIS. Communicating with CNN via Twitter, the blogger asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons.
CNN is unable to verify the Mosul Eye blog and its posts on Twitter and Facebook independently, but Iraqi journalists and scholars vouch for its veracity.
After eastern Mosul was liberated in January, residents found the animals roaming free in a smaller park in Mosul’s Al-Murur neighborhood, the blogger said, estimating that the lion and bear survived on their own for over four months.
Mosul Eye shows photos of other zoo animals that didn’t survive. A lioness that made it through the battle recently died, and many of the zoo’s monkeys, rabbits and other animals died during ISIS’ occupation, according to Mosul Eye.
Now life in eastern Mosul, where the zoo was located, is slowly returning to normal. Youth volunteer teams are engaged in efforts to make their city beautiful again, according to Mosul Eye.
And Mosul Eye’s plea for help for the animals did not go unanswered. A Kurdish veterinarian sent food for them, the blogger said. Residents are also working to clean up the park where the bear and lion are living.
There is a lot more work to be done, but Mosul Eye hopes that efforts to take care of the animals will bring a measure of humanity back to his city.
“When you learn to care for the animals and be kind to them, then you will know the value of human life. In this life, everything is connected. There’s no part that is worthless.”