Animal Figure. Around 1978, the Kabul Zoo recieved as a gift from the Cologne Zoo in Germany a young lion, only two. The zoo workers named him "Marjan" which means "Coral" or "Precious Stone" in Pashtun. It was not long afterwards, in 1979, that the Soviet Army invaded, attempting to grab Afghanistan as yet another spot for use in the Cold War. Over the course of the war, the Kabul Zoo was largely spared of the ravages. But after the Russians left, civil war erupted between rival political and ethnic factions, and Kabul, being a major city, was a key place to control. During the 18 months that followed, the zoo was decimated by gun and rocket fire. It was in 1993 that a foolhardy soldier decided to show off his "bravery" by entering the lion's den. He went into the enclosure of Marjan and his lioness named Chucha. Chucha ignored his stroking of her, but Marjan, acting on instinct, ran across the enclosure and mauled the man to death. The next day, a brother of the man threw a grenade into the lion pen, blinded by rage. Marjan pounced on it, and in the resulting explosion, he lost an eye, was imbedded with shrapnel, was badly mutilated, and was rendered deaf. Despite this, he survived. Once the Taliban took power, they tormented the few animals left at the zoo, but ended their actions when it was pointed out that Mohammed himself loved animals and had kept pets. Sometime in 2000, Chucha died mysteriously, and Marjan grieved by "Not eating for a week" according to former keeper Abdul Sattar. When the U.S. attacks began in 2001, the zoo workers couldn't even be paid, but they kept working, and a local bucther made sure Marjan had food. When the plight of the Kabul zoo was revealed in November 2001, donations poured in from all over the world. When Marjan was checked by experts, he was reported as being "Weak, thin, but in good health", and no work was performed on his injuries due to the fact they had healed enough and such surgery could be risky. When he was given parasite treatment, Marjan at first responded positively. But he suddenly began to go downhill, and on the morning of January 26th, it was discovered Marjan had passed away. His suspected death cause of liver and kidney failure was not a surprise; at 25, he was nearly 88 years old in human measurements. On Sunday afternoon, his tattered skin was removed in hopes of later mounting it. The rest of his remains were buried on zoo grounds at a private ceremony that evening. The following day, a memorial service was held, with attendance peaking in the hundreds. It was also announced that reconstruction would continue, that Marjan's skin would be mounted, and that a statue would later be made of him and placed at the zoo entrance. A sign erected on the lion's grave reads "Marjan" in English and "He was the most famous lion in the world" in Pashto. Marjan was old, like Afghanistan and going through rough times, but proud regardless of his troubles. It is for this reason some have called him "A living representation of Afghanistan."
Bio by: Mongoose