Alisa Manzelli, Global Animal
LIBYA — Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had a personal animal farm where he kept over 500 ostriches, rare-breed camels, hybrid cattle, and several breeds of sheep and goats.
Gaddafi’s private compound west of Sirte covering hundreds of square miles was abandoned when conflict erupted in August. All of these animals were left to die, suffering a similar fate to the abandoned animals in Libya’s Tripoli Zoo.
According to Reuters, at least 100 ostriches and other animals perished after being left to fend for themselves in enclosed desert conditions. Several collapsed and died in one sweltering pen while many of those who survived were too weak to stand. In addition, many of the birds were targeted by civilians and fighters in search of food.
Loyalist fighters affiliated with Libya’s interim government were moved by the plight of Gaddafi’s captive animals and went in to help. In recent weeks, fighters from Misrata have brought in bales of hay and sacks of grain for the surviving birds, which they now say are secure. Belgasem Al Sosi, a veterinarian from Misrata, has taken large strides to care for the vast animal collection, providing injections of antibiotics and vitamins to ailing birds. Herders have assumed care for the herds of camel, hybrid Jersey-Libyan cattle, and long-horned sheep and goats.
With a doctorate in international relations, Mohamad Al Majdoub makes an unlikely curator for Gaddafi’s animals, but he feels that caring for the menagerie is all a part of forging a free Libya.
Between Gaddafi and his sons, the ruling family held an extensive collection of animals. According to The Guardian, Saadi Gaddafi personally owned nine lions in Tripoli zoo, and son Saif al-Islam kept exotic animals at his farmhouse. The family abandoned all of these animals.
“Gaddafi didn’t care for people, he killed them with tanks. How can you expect him to care about his animals?” asked commander Abu Bakr Essa.