A lion and a brown bear were discovered by American coalition forces in a dilapidated building that was once part of al-Murur public park, where Islamic State militants had been in control.
The photos were shared by multiple users on Twitter and there is some confusion as to the lion’s gender. The lion appears to be a juvenile male lion without a full mane, but some are claiming it is a lioness.
It had been reported by Mosul Eye on Twitter that the lion had died after the photo was taken, but that now appears to not be the case. A new video shared on their Facebook page shows the bear and the lion in different enclosures, but still far from healthy. According to The Sun, the animals are now in the care of a “Dr. Solomon” of Feta, Kurdistan.
The lion may have been used by ISIS militants as a “mascot” of sorts, as the Islamic State refers to its militants as “lions” and their children as “cubs.”
In October, the American coalition, consisting of the Iraqi Army, the Kurdish Peshmerga, Shia militias like the PMU, Christian militias, and the Turkish Nineveh Guard, descended upon Mosul to free it from the Islamic State. The official operation began on October 17 when it was announced by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, reports the BBC.
East Mosul was recently liberated from ISIS, with small pockets of terrorist cells still causing havoc.
Lions are no longer native to Iraq. Asiatic lions used to roam western Asia, but are now restricted to a small population in Gir Forest National Park, India.
The lion is probably the more common African lion. According to the Middle East Eye, animal trafficking is big business in the Middle East with a majority of big cats ending up in the United Arab Emirates.
Brown bears are not native to Iraq but can be found more north in the Caucasus.