A zebra dies of officially “unknown causes” as tear gas hits the Giza Zoo
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2011:
GIZA, Egypt–Amid drifting tear gas, as demonstrators and
police clashed on May 15, 2011 just outside the Giza Zoo, a zebra
died of officially unknown causes.
“At least 120 people were injured,” reported Al Jazeera,
“when Egyptian security forces fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel
bullets at pro-Palestinian protesters who were trying to storm the
Israeli embassy. Protesters gathered to commemorate the 63rd
anniversary of the “Nakba” or “catastrophe” –the day Israel declared
independence and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were
expelled from their homes. At least 20 people were arrested. Al
Jazeera’s Rob Gilles, at the scene, said that some protesters
burned tires in the middle of the road and threw stones.”
The Israeli embassy is directly across a normally busy street
from the Giza Zoo main gate. Opened in 1891 by Ottoman governor
Khedive Ismail on the grounds of his palace, then located in the
countryside between the Cairo metropolis and the Giza pyramids, the
Giza Zoo–and the pyramids–are today engulfed by the metropolis.
Noisy traffic and bus fumes are a constant. But the often troubled
zoo had not before been caught up in civil unrest.
“There were more than 50 tear gas bombs,” Egyptian Society
of Animal Friends wildlife unit coordinator Dina Zulfikar told ANIMAL
PEOPLE. “Even though I arrived at the zoo [to investigate] after
1:00 p.m.,” nearly 24 hours after the fighting erupted, “I could
smell easily the tear gas. My eyes burned and I sneezed a lot. I
was told that the tear gas formed a powder which remained on the
leaves of the trees,” Zulfikar said.
“The first enclosure facing the Israeli Embassy is for the
ostriches,” Zulfikar continued. “The zebras are beside the
ostriches. Behind them is the lions’ exercise space. Things seemed
quiet. I noticed the keepers were paying much more attention and
being more affectionate than usual toward the animals. I have to
mention that I saw technicians working to maintain the cooling system
at the bear’s enclosure,” Zulfikar added. Zulfikar in 2008 helped
to arrange a donation of air conditioning for the bears that zoo
management promised to obtain 18 years earlier. Once installed,
however, the cooling system failed within less than two years,
allegedly due to lack of maintenance.
A frequent critic of the Giza Zoo management, Zulfikar
credited the management with “doing their best to protect the zoo”
during the rioting outside.
Zulfikar received a briefing from former zoo director Nabil
Sidki, now an advisory consultant, who filled in as acting director
during the crisis while current director Fatma Tammam attended a
conference in South Africa. “At 3:00 p.m., he received a call that
more protestors were gathering,” Zulfikar e-mailed to ANIMAL PEOPLE.
“He ordered that if the gathering continued, the staff should close
On May 16 the Egyptian army managed to disperse the
demonstrators without renewed tear gassing and tire-burning.
But what killed the zebra? All Zulfikar could learn was that
another zebra died in the same enclosure approximately 45 days
earlier. No one could tell her why that zebra died, either. “The
zoo is not being transparent,” Zulfikar finished.