Do you remember back in 2003 how an endangered Bengal tiger in the beleaguered Baghdad zoo was shot to death by a scared soldier with an illegal weapon because the hungry tiger was tasting another soldier? Well, they’ve made it into a Broadway play. And Robin Williams stars! As the tiger! I am not joking.
Now that this play exists, it’s difficult to internet research on the original story, even in Arabic. For instance, in the play the tiger’s name is Mamdouh. Can’t find any corroboration of that, though.
It wasn’t impossible, though. Okay what happened was some army reserve officer decided it would be a good idea to treat his soldiers to a cookout, and that a good place to roast a lamb would be in the middle of zoo full of underfed carnivores. More fantastic decision making took place that night, when a reservist decided to stand within reaching distance of a tiger. The story we heard at the time was that the soldiers had been drinking, but apparently they hadn’t drunk a significant amount. So the guy who stood a couple feet from a tiger and turned his back was sober. So anyway, as the 11-year-old tiger was munching this soldier’s arm, his buddy pulled a contraband pistol and shot the tiger dead. The snack soldier lost the use of his arm.
Sounds fishy, right? Most zoos don’t have tiger enclosures within reaching distance of the public. Neither did this one. The soldier was between the inner and outer enclosure, that is to say, in a really, really stupid place to be.
If Jurassic Park has taught us anything, it’s that we can create life and therefore we don’t need to think about wildlife conservation, because if you want more tigers, you can just whip them up in a lab.
So anyway, yeah, someone made a Broadway play out of this story.
The play, which is at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, takes place in Baghdad, shortly after “Shock and Awe.” Director Moises Kaufman says the playwright may have come up with a theatrical equivalent, as he attempts to describe Bengal Tiger: “There is a tiger that talks, there is a ghost of the son of Saddam Hussein, there is the ghost of a young girl, there are two American soldiers, one of whom dies in the middle of the play and becomes a ghost.” He concludes, “It’s part ghost story, part war play, part satire, part theater of the absurd.”
Bummer. While researching this I found out that US soldiers also killed four lions that had escaped from the zoo.