We all know the destructive implications or war – the dead soldiers and civilians, the wounded who become disabled for life and the damage to infrastructure and environment as one. Rare is it to hear discussions regarding the harm to wildlife.
Animal numbers dropped dramatically during the ongoing fighting in Iraq and in ISIS areas in particular because:
- As the economy slumped people used more local livestock for food. This was particularly so in the case of ISIS which took many animals to feed local fighters and those in Syria.
- People fled their homes and left their pets behind – with no food and water in the desert heat.
As a result, sighting animals is the exception rather than the norm in 2017 Iraq. Cats have all but disappeared and one sees only the occasional wandering dog.
On top of this of course are the ISIS bans on pets.
And it’s not only domesticated animals. Take a look at what remains of Mosul zoo:
Bringing Hope to Humans
But it’s not all doom and gloom – there is another way to see animals in this time of need for all residents of war-torn Iraq.
War brings psychological terror to civilians – children in particular. In post-war or post-ISIS Iraq, it’s close to impossible to return to “normal.”
In camps for internally-displaced Yazidis there are plans for petting zoos with a focus on animal therapy. No words are needed to interact and feel attachment. The animals accept us unconditionally, constantly supplying us with love, increasing our sense of security and flooding us with warmth and a feeling of connectivity. They can almost literally put us back on our feet.
While a dog may be man’s best friend, in Iraq there’s a new pretender – the owl. In some societies the owl represents dark forces – a point highlighted in the book of Isiah:
But desert creatures will lie there, jackals will fill her houses; there the owls will dwell, and there the wild goats will leap about.
But in reality, the owl proves to be extremely useful in wartime. Many of the bombed Iraqi villages were plagued by rodents – rats, mice and others that further damaged any surviving agricultural land. They also spread disease.
Owls apparently are among the animals whose number increases in war situations because of this readily-available supply of food. As a result, the rodent population is kept in check.
So as we find it hard on a daily basis to come to terms with the ongoing slaughter of humans, or even become tired of hearing about it, maybe a new way of sympathizing is to look at Iraq through the wildlife prism. As many as 31 bird species are on the verge of extinction and otters, pelicans, striped hyenas and river dolphins have disappeared from the country’s wetlands.
All in the name of war.