Starving Mosul zoo animals receive first food in a month

MOSUL, Iraq, Feb 2 (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.

SEE ALSO: In the vicious fight for Mosul, ISIS turned one of the city's gems into a strategic target

"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.

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Starving animals at the Mosul zoo
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Starving animals at the Mosul zoo
A starving lion is seen in its cage at Mosul's zoo, Iraq, February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
A sign reads "Nour Park" in Arabic at Mosul's zoo, Iraq, February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
A bear is seen in the cage of Nour Park at Mosul's zoo, Iraq, February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
A volunteer feeds a lion at Nour Park in Mosul's zoo, Iraq, February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
A bear is seen in the cage of Nour Park at Mosul's zoo, Iraq, February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
People play in Nour Park at Mosul's zoo, Iraq, February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Children look at a bear at Nour Park in Mosul's zoo, Iraq, February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
A cage which was hit by shell, allowing monkeys to escape, is seen at Nour Park in Mosul's zoo, Iraq, February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Children look at a bear at Nour Park in Mosul's zoo, Iraq, February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
A cage of an animal is seen at Nour Park in Mosul's zoo, Iraq, February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
A man stands next to a hole by mortar shell at Nour Park at Mosul's zoo, Iraq, February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Children play at Nour Park Mosul's zoo, Iraq, February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
A child shows his hand bit by monkey at Mosul's zoo, Iraq, February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
Mortar shells left behind by Islamic State militants are seen at Nour Park at Mosul's zoo, Iraq, February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed
A lion in its cage looks at a dead lioness in a grave at Mosul's zoo, Iraq, February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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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.

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