Title: Babylon’s Ark
Author: Lawrence Anthony
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Conservation, Non-fiction, True stories
Publisher: Thomas Dune Books
5th sentence, 74th page: I knew it was unlikely I would be able to shoot my way out, but I certainly would take a couple of these cutthroats with me.
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 help care for the remaining animals, and the zoo’s staff had returned to work in spite of the constant firefights. Together the Americans and Iraqis had managed to keep alive the animals that had survived the invasion.
Babylon’s Ark chronicles the zoo’s transformation from bombed-out rubble to peaceful park. Along the way, Anthony recounts hair-raising efforts to save a pride of the dictator’s lions, close a deplorable black-market zoo, and rescue Saddam’s Arabian horses. His unique ground-level experience makes Babylon’s Arkan uplifting story of both sides working together for the sake of innocent animals caught in the war’s crossfire.
There is nothing like settling down with a good, inspiring book that not only restores your faith in humanity, but also reminds you that anything is possible… if you have the courage to try. Anthony’s exploits in Baghdad at the take-over by American soldiers is one such story. Although the background of war and conflict help to heighten the risks which Lawrence takes in the name of conservation, this story is an incredible story about the people and the animals who are stranded in the middle of this dire situation.
Impulsive like the best of us, Anthony decides to travel to Iraq to attempt to save the animals that were stranded in the middle of one of the most bullet riddled conflict zones of the war. What follows is a journey that has stuck with me for the past two years. I have read it multiple times throughout the proceeding year, and with each re-read my awe and admiration for this incredibly dedicated man refuses to diminish. Lawrence Anthony is both who I strive to be, and who I could never imagine myself being. He chooses to risk everything for the sake of the lives of a few creatures who are unable to protect, and fight for themselves. Well, at least, they’re not able to fight against the gunfire that flew past them on what must have been a daily basis.
Whilst this story is about saving the Baghdad Zoo from ruin, and the rescue mission that sparked international interest, it is also about the people who made this possible. From the two brave men from Kuwait who travelled across the border to assist Lawrence to the Iraqis who journeyed daily across the ‘Red Zone’ to then spend unforgiving hours lugging buckets of water under the hot, desert sun. These men and women risked everything to take care of their fellow creatures. Yet, it wasn’t just the locals, members of the militia often helped to assist the up and coming zoo. From the unnamed soldier who gave away a brand new generator, to the mercenaries that continuously protected Lawrence and his people against looters – Babylon’s Ark is not only a story about saving a zoo, but also about the bravery and gumption of people in the face of almost impossible odds.