Volunteers care for sick animals at Gaddafi's menagerie

Wed Oct 5, 2011 5:28pm EDT
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By Tim Gaynor

WADI BAI, Libya (Reuters)- Flopped in the baking sand, deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's ostrich thrashes wildly, then lays its beak in the dust to die.

"Gaddafi didn't care for people, he killed them with tanks. How can you expect him to care about his animals?" rebel commander Abu Bakr Essa asks indignantly.

The dying bird is among around 1,000 ostriches abandoned without food or water at Wadi Bai, Gaddafi's vast private menagerie in the sun-blasted desert west of Sirte.

The sprawling reserve covering hundreds of square miles also contains large flocks of rare-breed camels, together with herds of hybrid cattle, and several breeds of sheep and goats.

The reserve has been taken over by fighters loyal to Libya's interim government, the National Transitional Council, from Misrata to the west, together with volunteers stirred by the animals' plight.

"Gaddafi left it and went," said Belgasem Al Sosi, a veterinarian from Misrata who is now doing his best to care for the huge animal collection. "They (Gaddafi's workers) left the animals with no food and no water."

Sosi says at least 100 ostriches have perished since the farm was abandoned after Gaddafi's regime fell in August when rebels moved into Tripoli. Several lay collapsed in one sweltering pen, either dead and rotting or too weak to stand.

The large birds have also been targeted by some civilians and fighters searching for food. Fighting between NTC forces and Gaddafi loyalists holding on to Sirte has created a humanitarian crisis in the city, with shortages of food, water and fuel.   Continued...

<p>Ostriches from deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's private menagerie are seen at Wadi Bai, October 4, 2011. REUTERS/Anis Mili</p>