A zoo in Nasr City, Egypt, has been accused of painting black stripes onto a donkey in order to make it appear to be a zebra. A photo of the allegedly painted animal has appeared online and experts have weighed in on the animal’s true nature.
Student Mahmoud Sarhan grew suspicious of the animal at Cairo’s International Garden Municipal Park after noticing that its “stripes” were smudged. It was also rather small and had pointy ears; zebras normally have rounded ears.
After posting pictures of the questionable animal on his Facebook account, the images went viral and spurred a discussion about what sets zebras apart from donkeys and other animals. Experts say that zebras’ snouts are black, and their stripes tend to be consistent and parallel. This was not the case with animal photographed by Sarhan, who reported that there were two animals in the enclosure and both appeared to have been painted.
Speaking to ABC News, Sarhan said: “When we approached the zebra we realized that the lines were clearly painted, the paint was smudgy and his hair was nothing like that of a zebra.” He identified the animal as the typical donkeys that are seen throughout Egypt.
In his original Facebook post sharing the pictures of the animal, which has been shared more than 10,000 times, Sarhan wrote: “Stupidity in our country has reached a level that they are now painting over a donkey to make it look like a zebra. They are so stupid they forgot to paint another layer and so it smudged on the donkey’s face.”
The director of the zoo insists that the animal is real despite all of the evidence to the contrary. Animal rights groups were quick to criticize the zoo for subjecting these normally skittish animals to being restrained and painted with chemicals that could cause allergic reactions.
Egyptian zoos do not have the greatest reputation when it comes to the conditions the animals living there must endure. Africa’s oldest zoo, the Giza Zoo, was stripped of its World Association of Zoos and Aquariums accreditation in 2004 due to deteriorating conditions.
A senior official working for the Central Administration of Zoos in Egypt told ABC News that the zebra was undoubtedly fake but that the zoo in question isn’t part of their purview.
It’s not the first time a zoo has try to pass off one animal species as another. In fact, a Gaza zoo painted donkeys with stripes to make them look like zebras in 2009 after claiming they were unable to get around the Israeli blockade.
A Chinese zoo made headlines in 2013 when it claimed that a Tibetan mastiff dog was actually an African lion. Guests were tipped off when the "lion” began to bark. It turned out that the real lion belonging to the zoo had been sent off to a breeding center, so officials placed one of the zoo’s workers dogs inside its cage.
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