Iraq Dispatch: Saddam’s Lion Cubs All Grown Up

BY Larisa Epatko  September 4, 2010 at 1:15 PM EDT

BAGHDAD | One symbol of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s extravagances was a zoo the family kept in a palace. Though the palace grounds were badly damaged during the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the three lions survived — discovered by coalition forces in a neglected state. Now they and their offspring are thriving at the Baghdad zoo.

Massive creatures, the nine adult lions weigh more than 700 pounds each.

“They are my children,” their handler tells us, and introduces some of them by name with the help of a translator:

Not to be outdone, the camels in a different part of the zoo wander over and preen for the camera:

During our blogging from Iraq, we’ve been marking the transformation of a few notable places from 2003 to now. See all of the reports from the trip.