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Babylon's Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo

4.18  ·  Rating Details ·  1,734 Ratings  ·  217 Reviews
When the Iraq war began, conservationist Lawrence Anthony could think of only one thing: the fate of the Baghdad Zoo, located in the city center and caught in the war's crossfire. Once Anthony entered Baghdad he discovered that full-scale combat and uncontrolled looting had killed nearly all the animals of the zoo.
But not all of them. U.S. soldiers had taken the time to h
ebook, 256 pages
Published March 6th 2007 by Thomas Dunne Books
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Jul 03, 2012 Allison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: YA & Up
Wow. Just, wow. What a loss the world has experienced since Lawrence Anthony has died - and most of the world has no clue.

It never occurred to me that there was a zoo in Baghdad and despite knowing that the Hussein's kept exotic animals, I never once gave any thought to them until I heard of this book.

The insight that Mr. Anthony had into how to address issues, whether crisis issues or not, far exceeded their application on just a war-torn zoo.

In addition to relating the tales of saving the anim
Jun 26, 2012 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fan of Anthony since reading "The Elephant Whisperer," I was quick to pick this up to see what adventures he could get himself into this time. "Babylon's Ark" takes Anthony out of the lush, natural setting of South Africa and puts him instead in the urban, war-torn, city of Baghdad with IEDs and flying bullets. The few remaining animals at the Baghdad Zoo not killed or stolen by local looters were in grave condition and upon arrival Anthony considers whether it wouldn't be most humane just to ...more
As with the author's previous book, The Elephant Whisperer, this book was superbly narrated by Simon Vance. I loved Whisperer, and also loved this book (but not as much) despite some off-topic digressions and sporadic sequence breaking— skipping around in time when the author reflects back on something. (It was hard to keep track of time, but I think Lawrence Anthony stayed in Baghdad working freely for the animals for four uncomfortable months. When he left, the animals were recovering nicely a ...more
Apr 27, 2009 Kate rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While definitely not the pinnacle of good writing, the story is what counts here. I read about Lawrence Anthony and this book in a Sunday paper magazine in a pub and I knew I had to read it. I had no idea that there even was a Baghdad zoo (or a Kabul zoo for that matter), I suppose because I just didn't think about it. But that now makes me feel almost guilty after reading about what happened to these places and the animals in them that count on humans every day for their health and well-being.

This book practically made me weep with such sadness. I've read one other book by Lawrence Anthony, who is a conservationist. He runs a game reserve in South Africa to protect many animals. In this book, he decided to travel to Baghdad, war torn and still unsafe, to save the animals that have been abandoned in the zoo. The animals were starving and horrific shape. That was so sad.

The author rose to the challenge and tried to save them. This was such an inspirational story. Kind hearts speak volu
Jessie Frederick
I read The Elephant Whisperer a few months back and fell in love. I've now read Babylon's Ark, and that love has only grown. I am dying to read The Last Rhinos now. Lawrence Anthony is not a "writer" by any means. There's a ruggedness to his works that confirms that his first focus is conservation and maintaining his nature reserve, Thula Thula. But Lawrence Anthony is a storyteller. And an incredibly gifted one at that. Having read two of his books now, I am in awe at how well he takes readers ...more
Ilsa Bick
Apr 10, 2012 Ilsa Bick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Conservationist and Earth Organization founder Lawrence Anthony died in March at the age of 61. An insurance and real estate exec turned animal saviour, Anthony came to world attention in 2003 when, alarmed about what might be happening to the capital city’s zoo animals, he rushed to Iraq shortly after the American invasion. When he arrived, only a few weeks into the war, he discovered the zoo savaged by combat fire and ransacked by looters. The majority of the animals were gone, either killed b ...more
Jan 01, 2011 Maria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This book tells the fascinating story of a conservationist from South Africa who decided to save the Baghdad Zoo in the middle of the Second Gulf War. He sweet-talked his way into Kuwait, bludgeoned and bonhomie-d his way from there in Iraq with a rented Toyota and two Kuwaiti zoo workers.

The story is stunning. Unfortunately, though Lawrence Anthony has many gifts, writing is not one of them. (Hence the presence of the co-author). The book's quality of writing, pacing and language are extremely
Nov 17, 2015 Georgia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely LOVED this book...just as much as I loved his first..."The Elephant Whisperer" and his last..."the Last Rhino". I actually googled Laurence Anthony after reading "The Elephant Whisperer" and was crushed to read that he had died shortly after writing "The Last Rhino". All three of these books are so informative, heart-warming, and yet horrifying with the descriptions of the evils of poaching these animals to extinction. I seldom plead with people to read books--but in this case, I'm ...more
I was introduced to Anthony with his better-known book, THE ELEPHANT WHISPERER, and it helped me understand Jodi Picoult's new novel.

This one, written first, is equally compelling in a whole different way. Anthony heard about the Baghdad Zoo being threatened after the second Iraqi war, and decided to see what needed to be done. That visit turned into an extended stay, turned into making relationships with American military leaders and soldiers, with mercenaries, with crooks and looters.
Sep 20, 2015 Kirsti rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An outstanding story of courage in the face of horror, and the integral roles everyone involved played in saving the remaining animals of Baghdad Zoo. Lawrence Anthony arrived in Iraq as the first foreign civilian allowed in with one mission; to get to the zoo, deliver his supplies, and do what he could to help the animals. Hundreds of the zoo's former inhabitants had been taken and eaten, or killed in the crossfire. The remaining animals were starving and dehydrated, with the first thought that ...more
At first, I was not going to fall in love with the late Mr. Lawrence Anthony and his possibly paternalistic, white-savior attitude toward the Indigenous peoples and animals of South Africa and his cavalier, daring, devil-may-care attitude and Rhett-Butler-esque weakness for what-could-be-a-lost-cause in Iraq, but Simon Vance's (always) flawless reading had me a little bit smitten. This story is peppered with self-deprecating and painfully sharp humor, adoring and generous words of praise and res ...more
Nov 01, 2014 Pamela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are those of us who wish to change the world, even in a small way, and maybe we make small contributions, but mostly we feel overwhelmed by what we are up against. Then there are those who see the challenges and take them on, determined to REALLY make a change and somehow, figure out how to overcome the obstacles that stand in their way. Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Harriet Beecher Stowe are some examples. And there are more. But down in South Africa, there is a man I never heard of ...more
Oct 12, 2014 Jami rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Awesome book! The book itself in terms of the content and writing was a 4-star, but I bumped it up another star because of what Lawrence Anthony and his team accomplished at the zoo. I was wondering how a conservationist could rationalize helping rebuild a zoo where animals are caged, but I get it now after reading the book.

Mr. Anthony was one awesome person. I read his first book about how he created his reserve for elephants and wildlife after taking it away from the poachers. Knowing that he
Sep 07, 2015 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-group
When a friend recommended this book, it sounded like a book that I'd enjoy. Indeed I did enjoy it, and learned more about what life was like in Iraq after the fall of Baghdad. The South African author went to Baghdad to save animals that were left in the destroyed Baghdad Zoo. What he found was hard to believe. His heroic effort to bring life back to the small percentage of animals that survived the war was amazing. I found myself horrified and fascinated at the same time. This was a good read, ...more
Aug 22, 2013 Sue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After the topple of Saddam's regime, Lawrence Anthony learned of the cruel living conditions suffered by the animals of the Baghdad Zoo. Anthony was able, by persistence, to get himself permission to enter Iraq on what was originally to be a fact finding mission to evaluate the conditions and determine what could be done. The conditions he found were far worse than he'd expected and the mission turned into an effort to save the lives of as many as possible. Initially operating on less than a sh ...more
Apr 10, 2008 Johanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone - but especially animal enthusiasts
I learned a lot about what it was/is like in Iraq from an outsider's perspective at the heart of Baghdad just after the invasion - the hardships, violence, lack of sanitation, futility, and destruction. This one man's battle to save the remaining animals that were not stolen or killed in the zoo is an amazing documentation of courage, compassion, and determination. Lawrence Anthony has a big heart and an impressive amount of "liver," so to speak. ;)

I was struck by many things in this book - firs
Stephanie A.
Feb 28, 2013 Stephanie A. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, animals
I know/understand basically nothing about the giant quagmire that is the Middle East, but THIS is how you make war real and horrible to me: remind me how it punishes innocent animals, especially the caged ones who can't run. Fortunately, it is a mostly inspiring story, filled with good guys at every turn. It's written in an engaging style with no politicizing, the animals always at the forefront, and it's wonderful to see people who do care.

The worst part is reading about how brazen and damagin
J. Muro
3 1/2 ! Difficult decision, for both of L. Anthony's books on elephants and rhinos had received a five! This one was because it had been very difficult to read with all of those inhumane stories of neglected animals during the wartime, which was terrible-had to put the book down a lot...Many stars to all those who made such a positively heart-warming and hard-working sacrifice to those left behind animals--the animals and those animal caretakers that spent their time, money, investment, and much ...more
Melissa ♥ Dog Lover ♥ Martin
Bless the late Lawrence Anthony! And bless all of those who went into this horrific and deadly situation to save animals stuck in a zoo in the middle of the war zone.

The majority of the stories were very hard for me to read, but I know of these things and just got through them.

The strength all of these men went through to help these animals is very touching. It just goes to show there are people out there that will go through hell to help animals. And in some cases, it really is hell to save t
Brooklynn Wieland
Lawrence Anthony, the author of Babylon's Ark, wrote an incredible story of the hardships, struggles and successes of a zoo in Bagdad that was struggling to thrive in a deadly war zone. It all begins when Lawrence Anthony leaves his reserve in South Africa to travel the Bagdad zoo, that is in the middle of a warzone. When he gets there, he cannot believe what he sees. The Bagdad Zoo is in ruins and most of the animals have died, their corpses haven't been removed, for the remaining zoo workers a ...more
Jun 26, 2016 Camille rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The title “Babylon’s Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Bagdad Zoo” says it all. Lawrence Anthony took it upon himself to save the animals in the Bagdad Zoo, heading there in a rented car after the city fell to American troops. Bagdad was still a war zone. When he arrived, Anthony found the zoo in shambles; it had been damaged in the fighting and was looted. Many animals escaped, were stolen for food, or sold on the black market. The remaining animals were dehydrated, starved, and ill. Th ...more
Jan 25, 2016 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Anthony's writing was descriptive enough to make me feel the grittiness of a violent, occupied city. The sights, smells, and sounds, as well as the non-stop nature of the threat, were vividly conveyed in this book. I had a hard time leaving the story to resume the everyday affairs of my safe little life because I wanted to know what happens next. To get a look behind the scenes at the difficulties that are everyday issues for people in other cultures or areas of the world can only be mind al ...more
Babylon's Ark is the real life story of the rescue of the Baghdad Zoo. Written by Lawrence Anthony, it details Anthony's harrowing rescue mission in war-torn Baghdad, after the invasion in 2001 to drive out tyrannical dictator Saddam Hussein. After a ferocious battle, Baghdad was utterly destroyed and the Zoo was the main focal point for the battle. The animals that occupied the zoo weren't even let out, meaning they were shut in cages without water or food while bomb shells and gunfire pierced ...more
May 04, 2014 Mac rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Babylon's Ark is interesting and informative on several subjects--the Iraqi cruel treatment of animals even before the war began, the horrible conditions of the Baghdad zoo just after the US invasion, the challenges--both physical and financial--to save the remaining zoo animals, and the total lawlessness throughout the city. That lawlessness--the looting, the intimidation, the constant threat from gunfire and bombs--is as vividly drawn as the animals' poor health and squalid conditions in the z ...more
Apr 19, 2007 Katey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: animals, non-fiction
The writer gets a little preachy at the end, but he does a very good job at remaining politically neutral about the war in Iraq. His concern was for the animals of Baghdad Zoo, the majority of whom suffered horrible deaths in the wake of the beginning of the war. The ones that remained were not in much better shape. This is the story of how he and a few dedicated US soldiers, Iraqi zoo employees, and various animal welfare groups came to the aid of some of the most defenseless victims of the war ...more
Oct 21, 2015 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredible story which I read last night, as I could not go to bed until I finished it. It's 2003, and the Coalition forces have captured Baghdad. The manager of the Thula Thula Game Reserve in Zululand in South Africa, Lawrence Anthony, fears that the animals of the Baghdad Zoo are endangered and heads into the war zone of Iraq. He soon realizes that the "Mission" has not yet been accomplished and that the fighting still rages in the city. He sees that the zoo has been looted and that many of ...more
Christopher Laughlin
As a lover of animals and zoos, this was an excellent read. At times funny, at others poignant, at still others depressing, this is the story of a man who leaves his animal preserve in South Africa to see the condition of the animals in the Baghdad Zoo shortly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

I really appreciated the way Anthony presented the actions of each person in the best possible light - except the black market zoo keepers, for whom he has no time and whom he clearly thinks of as scum
Carolyn Stevens Shank
Feb 04, 2014 Carolyn Stevens Shank rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is an account of Anthony's heroic efforts to save the animals in the Baghdad Zoo from certain death, immediately after the U.S.-Iran War. He found the animals emaciated, dying of thirst, traumatized, and in unbelievably filthy cages. Anthony was the first civilian to cross the border, while street battles were still raging. There were those who thought him mad to take on such a task. He said he wanted to compensate for, and call attention to, the world-wide abuse and neglect of wild a ...more
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“Why do we so mindlessly abuse our planet, our only home? The answer to that lies in each of us. Therefore, we will strive to bring about understanding that we are--each one of us--responsible for more than just ourselves, our family, our football team, our country, or our own kind; that there is more to life than just these things. That each one of us must also bring the natural world back into its proper place in our lives, and realize that doing so is not some lofty ideal but a vital part of our personal survival.” 2 likes
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