A sign reads "Nour Park" in Arabic at Mosul's zoo, Iraq
MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) - A bear paced around its filthy cage next to a lion with hunger in its eyes. They are the only animals left in a destroyed zoo in Mosul on Thursday, a city shattered by fighting between Iraqi forces and Islamic State.
When military advances began in Mosul, Nour Park was turned from a home for monkeys, horses and other animals into a staging ground for Islamic State.
"The battle lasted for three or four months. There was a guard that used to come and feed them," the park's owner, who gave his name only as Abu Omar, told Reuters.
Neighbors fed the animals until fighting became too fierce for many to leave their homes. A number of animals were killed and others died of starvation. Some animals escaped.
Volunteers sent by the Kurdistan Organization for Animal Rights Protection brought the first substantial amounts of food to the former zoo in a month.
People living nearby said they had been bringing leftovers to animals, but it was not enough as many people struggled to find food for themselves and their families.
At one point a cage broke open, allowing monkeys to escape and wreak havoc on neighbors. A resident held a baby that was marked with a red scar said to be the result of a monkey scratch three weeks ago.
The park, also filled with colorful children's rides, is in the eastern half of the city, which was recently retaken by Iraqi forces.
(Reporting by Reuters TV in Iraq; Editing by Toni Reinhold)