January 25, 2008

January 25 | Marjan the Lion

1976? - January 25, 2002: Age approx. 25

Marjan was a famous lion in Kabul, Afghanistan, who lived through the Soviet invasion, numerous coups d'état, the rule of the Taliban, and the War on Terror.

In about 1978, he was given to the Kabul zoo as a gift from the Cologne Zoo. He was two at the time. Soon afterward he was joined by a lioness, Chucha. Just a year later, in 1979, the Soviet Army invaded Afghanistan: fortunately for Marjan and Chucha, Kabul was not badly damaged. However when the Soviets left, civil war broke out between rival factions. Kabul, being a major point of control, was hit hard. Gunfire and rocket fire became a routine occurence at the zoo.

But it was not until 1993 that Marjan nearly met his end: an Afghan soldier, eager to show off his valour, entered the lion cage and began to stroke Chucha. She ignored him, but Marjan mauled him to death. The man's brother came to the zoo the next day and threw a grenade into Marjan's cage. Marjan jumped on it, and was horribly wounded. After several surgeries the doctors were able to limit the damage to losing an eye, his hearing, and all his teeth. They also adapted the enclosure to help him move around, as he needed a ramp to get into his den.

His troubles were not over. When the Taliban took control of Kabul, they began to torment few surviving animals at the zoo until it was pointed out that Mohammed had loved animals and kept pets.

In 2000 Chucha died, leaving Marjan in deep grief: he did not eat for a week. With the "War on Terror", US attacks commenced in 2001: there was no money to pay the zoo staff but they continued to work, and a local butcher made sure Marjan was supplied with food.

Finally in November 2001 the plight of Marjan and the other zoo animals became known outside of Afghanistan, and donations poured in. At the time Marjan was weak and thin but, thanks to his stalwart keepers, in good health. In January, however, after a parasite treatment, he suddenly declined, and died sometime during the night of January 25, 2002. At 25, he was nearly 90 in lion years.

Sources: Wikipedia, Find-a-Grave

No comments: