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Georgia: Tbilisi Zoo Reopens, but Questions Persist

After her home was destroyed during the June flood, Beggi the hippo was moved to her new temporary home – the former elephant enclosure at the Tbilisi Zoo. Built in 1927, the restored zoo reopened three months after sudden flooding swept through parts of the Georgian capital, killing 19 people and more than half of the zoo’s population. (Photo: Paul Rimple)

The hippo has a new home, and the penguins have given up their wandering ways. Three months after a flood devastated Tbilisi’s city zoo, killing three zookeepers and 277 animals, the facility, a beloved spot for a family outing, has reopened. But questions remain about its future.
 
Placards with photographs of muddy wreckage and cleanup efforts, a firm reminder of the tragic scale of the June 13 flood, lined the zoo’s entrance on its low-key re-opening day, September 13. Given the destruction that occurred, Zoo Director Zurab Gurielidze told one Georgian daily that marking the re-opening with hoopla would have been inappropriate.
 
In the flood’s aftermath, an escaped tiger mauled a man to death, while the use of special forces and police to shoot predators dead on the streets of Tbilisi prompted local animal-rights activists to condemn the notion of zoos altogether.
 

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Paul Rimple is a freelance reporter based in Tbilisi.

Georgia: Tbilisi Zoo Reopens, but Questions Persist

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