November 11, 2020 | finance & economytourism

Duhok zookeeper has raised lions since childhood


DUHOK, Kurdistan Region — Bilal Sahmi, 25, has been raising lions at Duhok Zoo for 13 years.

The lions recognize Bilal's face and smell, so he can enter their cages without fear. But he can no longer enter their cages once the lions turn two and a half years of age, or he risks being overpowered.

Zoos in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq are notorious for keeping animals in poor conditions, but Bilal says he takes good care of the lions.

The zoo has sold some of the cubs Bilal has reared to zoos across Iraq, in 'Mosul, Kirkuk, Basra, Erbil and elsewhere,' Bilal said. 'We sold the cubs after taming them.'

Tourists from across Iraq flock to the zoo to see the African lions, which Duhok Zoo first brought to the Kurdistan Region in 2001.

'We've come from Tal Afar and Mosul to see the tourist spots in Erbil and Duhok...the zookeepers take very good care of the animals,' Iraqi tourist Khalil Abdulghani said. 'We're happy that there are both young and old animals here.'

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