Conditions Improving at Kabul Zoo

Stentor Danielson
National Geographic News
June 10, 2002

Years of war in Afghanistan have taken a heavy toll not only on the country's people but also on its animals. The residents of the Kabul Zoo have been among the most badly affected.

Fortunately, an outpouring of international effort has helped the zoo begin recovering from Afghanistan's civil war and the turmoil of the Taliban regime.

"The zoo is a strong symbol of hope" for the people of Kabul, said Hayden Turner, an Australian who is active in wildlife conservation.

Turner, who has been a zookeeper at Sydney's Taronga Zoo, went to Kabul this past winter with a team from the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) to provide desperately needed care to the animals at the Kabul Zoo. His experiences are the subject of a new National Geographic Channel documentary, "Kabul Zoo Rescue."

International Response

The Kabul Zoo's population declined to less than 40 as a result of the hardships in recent years. The documentary looks at the treatment of four of the inhabitants: a lion named Marjan, a bear named Donatella, and a pair of wolves.

Marjan, who was elderly and in overall poor health, died while the WSPA team was in Kabul, but the group was able to relocate Donatella and the wolves to better quarters.

In an interview, Turner said he has learned since leaving Kabul that the animals featured in the documentary are recovering well.

The WSPA team also treated an eagle with an infected eye, and the bird has healed completely, Turner noted.

Mary Rosevear, director of the Federation of British Zoos, said a number of zoos around the world have organized under the banner of the World Association of Zoos and Aquaria (WAZA) to help the Kabul Zoo and its animals.

She said John Lewis, an English veterinarian, visited the zoo in April to examine Donatella, whose nose had been slashed by a Taliban soldier. The injury has been aggravated by the bear repeatedly rubbing her nose against the bars of her small cage. Lewis treated Donatella and determined her infection was fungal, and she is now undergoing treatment and healing properly.

Continued on Next Page >>


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