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

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  2,563 ratings  ·  287 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 he
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published March 6th 2007 by Thomas Dunne Books
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4.25  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,563 ratings  ·  287 reviews

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This is a fantastic book. If you read the Goodreads synopsis, you'll get the gist of the book ... but you won't really understand what these people, and animals, endured until you read the book. The courage, persistence, blood-sweat-and-tears that went into this rescue is simply amazing. So many people risked so much just to make a difference in the lives of innocent animals caught in a war zone. I was deeply touched by Lawrence's efforts, and not only his, but the locals, and the American soldi ...more
Jul 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
As with the author's previous book, The Elephant Whisperer, this book was superbly narrated by Simon Vance. I loved Whisperer, and also enjoyed this book (but not as much).

Set in Baghdad in 2003, Lawrence Anthony recounts the restoration of the bombed and looted Baghdad Zoo. Through his first-hand perspective, we see that this hard-won success was a team effort, a cooperative. Helpers included local Iraqis, a few Kuwaiti vets, foreign conservationists (especially Lawrence), the military coalitio
Jun 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jessie Frederick
May 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 27, 2009 rated it liked it
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.

Mar 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I did not enjoy this as much as Elephant Whisperer, but I can still recommend it. There are a few pages that seemed to be a "cut and paste" from Elephant Whisperer, but that is my only complaint. The story is compelling and the writing is clear. If you have enjoyed Lawrence Anthony's work in the past, this will not disappoint.
Sep 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 29, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Andrew Pender-Smith
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Lawrence Anthony's journey into war-torn Iraq to save zoo animals in danger of dying through neglect and starvation is an inspirational story of compassion and courage. The full-colour photographs are a welcome addition. I read this book about a year after it came out and it still resonates.
Jan 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Stephanie A.
Feb 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: animals, nonfiction, zoos
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
Sep 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 08, 2015 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
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf 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
Christy Keeler
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful testament of commitment to humanity. Anthony, without being requested and while using personal funds, chose to go to Baghdad in the midst of a war to do what was right—save defenseless animals abandoned in a neglected zoo. He stayed to bring the zoo to health and rescue numerous other abandoned and abused animals.

The book shows how one person committed to doing what is right can change a world for many. He never involved himself with the the politics of the war; he just loved t
Apr 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Amazing true story of some incredible people who helped rescue the animals of the Baghdad Zoo during the Iraq war. Uplifting, at times sad, but restores some of your faith in humanity. A book you look forward to picking up and reading.
Apr 18, 2018 rated it liked it
OK I'm now through all the Anthony books. Elephant Whisperer was the best one for me. Most focused, more interesting stories. This book has a great first half. The story of getting into Baghdad and finding out how to treat the animals was very interesting. After that, a little repetitive for me.
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
This particular book was recommended to me by GR and since it was of course about the rescue of a zoo I was smitten with the idea while having spent so much time trying to track down a copy as I couldn't afford one nor did I have access to a library. Unfortunately this is one book that I wish that I hadn't tracked down and had just let it stay to the side to tempt me with its promise of a good read.

Although the authors did mean well for the book itself it basically felt less of a rescue attemp
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Babylon’s Ark, by Lawrence Anthony and Graham Spence, is one of the few non-fiction books I have read that have turned out to be more interesting, more hair raising, and deeper than any fiction book I have ever read. Lawrence Anthony recounts his memories of naively throwing himself head first into the middle of the 2008 Iraq war to try and save a zoo with some frozen meat and a rental car. Lawrence had heard about the Baghdad Zoo being looted and trashed by both the Iraqi’s and American’s, so h ...more
Since this book manages to tie together both parts of my careers at this point in life (the military and Zoos) it was bound to end up on my reading list at some point or another. It's also no wonder that I rated it as highly as I did, but that's not all biased. It's very much a great story that is well written and reinforces valuable lessons about conservation, sustainability, and how military action impacts the lives of not just humans but animals in a war zone.

Lawrence Anthony and I almost ov
Grace I
Feb 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fic-17-18
This soul wreaching book is an inspiring story of a man from South Africa who goes to a war filled city in Iraq to do the impossible an save a zoo that has been destroyed by bombs and looters. This story will bring you closer to the Earth than ever.
Oct 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing story and should be read by anyone who loves animals and the earth. Thank you so much Ryan for telling me about it.
Apr 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
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
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.
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“Ensuring that our home planet is healthy and life sustaining is an overwhelming priority that undercuts all other human activities. The ship must first float.
Our failure to grasp these fundamental tenants of existence will be our undoing. And one thing is for certain. No calvary is going to come charging to our rescue. We are going to have to rescue ourselves or die trying.
Workable solutions are urgently needed. Saving seals and tigers or fighting yet another oil pipeline through a wilderness area, while laudable, is merely shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic. The real issue is our elementary accord with Earth and the plant and animal kingdoms has to be revitalized and re-understood.
The burning question is, How?”
“It is also vital that our relationship with nature and the environment be included in our education systems. This is not longer something cute or nice to do; it is now a singular imperative.” 4 likes
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