‘Hell for animals’: Egypt's Giza Zoo beset by tear gas, bear ‘riots’ and giraffe ‘suicide’

Animal-rights activists have long been concerned about conditions there

A A A

The giraffe committed suicide, an Egyptian newspaper reported. And the government pulled a former zoo director out of retirement to deal with the resulting media storm.

“The problem is with the press,” Nabil Sedki said one recent afternoon, five days into the job. “The media fabricated the suicide.”

The deceased animal was a three-year-old giraffe named Roqa, who, Sedki said, inadvertently hanged herself in early December after getting tangled in a wire inside her enclosure at the government-run Giza Zoo, in the heart of Cairo.

The state has launched three investigations – one purely forensic, another by the government’s official veterinary body and a third by a legal committee – “to see who will hang instead of the giraffe,” Sedki said with a wry laugh.

Animal-rights activists have long been concerned about conditions at Giza. In 2010, the zoo began to separate its lions by gender in an effort to stem its skyrocketing lion population. Meat is pricey, and space is limited. Many big cats are packed two per cramped cage. They eat mostly donkey carcasses, zookeepers said, and “fast” one day a week.

In May, three black bears died in one night under mysterious circumstances. Zoo authorities called it a bear “riot”. In 2007 and in 2008, local media reported that zookeepers were slaughtering camels for meat to eat themselves – many keepers earn less than $60 (£37) a month – and to sell to other hungry Egyptians.

And this month, the independent daily Al Masry Al Youm newspaper reported that Roqa had committed suicide. The article went viral.

“Is there anyone,” Sedki asked, “who actually believes that this giraffe committed suicide?” As he spoke, a fresh, stinging cloud of tear gas wafted in through an open doorway, and the thudding blasts of tear-gas cannon could be heard from the latest clashes between police and student protesters at nearby Cairo University.

Just outside the 122-year-old zoo’s main gate is Nahda Square, which served as an encampment for supporters of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi last August. Police used bullets and tear gas to disperse the protesters, killing scores of people.

Incoming tear gas compels zookeepers to wrap their faces in scarves. According to Sedki, it gets to the animals, too.

“This is not a zoo,” said Mona Khalil, a founder of the Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals. “This is hell for animals.”

© The Washington Post

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory