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Calling all animal activists

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Sara Abou Bakr

Sara Abou Bakr

Six days ago, three grizzly bears died at Giza Zoo.

Reports on the news stated that the three female bears were fighting over a male.

Thus ensued a slew of jokes about the prowess of the male bear, though how someone can find such negligence- on the part of the zoo- hilarious escapes me.

Two days later, the Al-Watan newspaper broke the story;  the three bears died because of a sedative overdose, leading to two falling over and breaking several bones, while the remaining one drowned.

A photo of a starving lioness at Alexandria Zoo ignited anger last August, gaining international scrutiny from animal activists. The zoo manager assured them the case was under control. A day later, the lioness died.

In November 2011, a lioness cub was rescued from an enclosure in the Red Sea and placed in Giza Zoo, which is supposed to act as a rescue centre if necessary. Mimi the cub was given to the zoo and several well-meaning animal lovers donated blankets, toys and their time to help her transition. Mimi died a month later.

Similar stories of the negligence of the seven governmental zoos in Egypt can be easily dug up.  One only has to walk through one of them to see the abuse; malnourished lions, hippos swimming in filthy ponds, wild dogs injured and left untreated, seals that perform tricks on command, brown bears spoon-fed and petted by visitors

You do not have to be a specialist to see the abuse first-hand.

Giza Zoo, because it is located in the capital, gets the lion’s share of media attention, followed by Alexandria Zoo. The conditions of the other governmental zoos in Beni Suef, Fayoum, Kafr El-Sheikh, Mansoura, and Tanta are even worse. Puny and injured animals suffering from malnourishment is a major concern.

One of the worst kinds of exploitation of wild animals in Egyptian zoos is what is commonly known as a “photo session”. You pay EGP 20 and you can have your photo taken with your choice of wild baby animals- lion cubs, peacocks, monkeys, and more.

Parents flock to the photo sessions, wanting to appease their children’s desire for a photo with a lion cub. It does not matter that human-animal contact is dangerous because of the transfer of viruses which can lead to the animal’s death and at times, the human’s infection. Nor does it matter that teaching children such behaviour only reinforces the concept of treating animals as toys. What matters is making money.

The zoo keepers are given very low monthly salaries, around EGP 200. To make ends meet, they depend on tips from visitors who, in turn, require tricks from the animals. The keepers have to care about the animals because they are their livelihoods. Unlike zoo keepers aboard, they are not given any awareness or animal behaviour courses. Most of them gain experience on the job. Some have had their job for over 20 years; their responsibility, according to one keeper, is to “keep the animal alive”. If the animal dies, the keeper takes the fall even if there is administrative negligence. Thus it is a vicious cycle of covering negligence instead of fixing the problem.

The General Organisation of Veterinary Services (GOVS) headed by Osama Selim supervises all four animal-related sectors: public zoos, veterinarian quarantine, veterinarian preventive medicine, and slaughterhouses. Selim happens to be the head of the veterinary services as well, while Fatma Tamam is Giza Zoo director and head of the public zoos!

The duality of positions means that complaints fall into a vicious cycle; if an animal dies at Giza Zoo, a complaint is then filed to the zoo director, who is Tamam. All complaints against the zoo are handed to the head of the public zoos- Tamam- too. Complaints filed with the Environment Police are also handed to Tamam for investigation!

In a country where people can barely make ends meet, animals do not rank high on the important issues list.

So why keep zoos functional?

Money!

The money made out of yearly visitors is reported in the millions (the actual budget remains a top secret issue so far). Egyptians, who are quite poor, find that zoos are their only possible outing because of the low-priced tickets, particularly during holidays. Of course, the huge numbers of visitors, animals suffer a different kind of maltreatment; visitors agitate them and some even throw hot drinks on them to “get a reaction”. Last week, during the Easter holiday, children were filmed shooting at the antelopes with a BB gun!

To have a zoo is a responsibility. Animals cannot talk or express their pain, and so if one is not up to such a responsibility, it should be given up.

Activists have started an online petition to close down all seven governmental zoos, calling them “hellholes for animals”.

Until Egypt can step up to its responsibilities, we call upon all animal activists in every country to help us close down these hell-holes and find an alternative for these suffering animals.

“Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it.”

Mark Twain

 

About the author

Sara Abou Bakr

Politics editor at Daily News Egypt Twitter: @sara_ab5

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  • Csse

    You are a lazy, good for nothing. You call for foreign intervention rather than growing an Egyptian movement to protect and respect animals. And you know what, that will just lead to more abuse. Because we Egyptians see these foreigners who care more about the well-being of the animals here than they do about the well-being of Egyptian humans even when Egyptian humans are being subjected to the same abuse on a daily basis and we feel hated by the foreigners so we don’t respect their opinions on anything. You know what they say about teaching a man to fish rather than handing him a fish. This is what you should be doing rather than begging for a colonial solution.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jane.seymour.3745 Jane Seymour

      Case you are a real ‘case’! The animal activists in Egypt have been fighting the Egyptian government for decades for animal rights in Egypt, they spend much of their time trying to educated the Egyptian citizen, they run shelters for abused and tortured animals, kittens being used by children as footballs, ears being cut off, animals being electrocuted, abandoned and personally I have five cats and a puppy, the latter abandoned at 5 weeks old. Why do people like you compare the human rights to the animals rights, can’t we have both or is it one against the other, in this case I am with the animals, at least humans can protest themselves to a good degree and they have a voice, they can ask for help, they can beg on the streets but, the animals are VOICELESS AND THE MERCY OF THE IGNORANT ONES SUCH AS YOURSELF….Amen!

      • Csse

        It’s Csse,. not Case. I did not say we should not have both. But both are Egyptian problems for Egyptians to solve. We have plenty of bright and intelligent young Egyptian men and women who could solve these problems rather than resort to calling for help from people such as yourself who lack a compassionate and caring understanding of our culture whose first reaction is to call Egyptians “ignorant.” It is well known that you hate Egypt and are counting the days until you go back to your own country so you will never be part of the solution so its better for you to keep quiet. It’s easy for you and the author to bang out a rant about what is going on on your keyboard. It’s a lot harder obviously for your type to actually get off your arses and do something.

        • Amr

          Youve much time to comment. Maybe your the one who bangs on, ranting about foreigners who hate. Maybe your the hater. You did forget to mention about the US loan offer to us. Maybe you should wind your neck in and stop being zenophobic. I bet you dont mind the foreigners when your in their Uni’s or working in their country. Maybe you have double standards, and it applies to animal welfare

          • Nye

            Half the comments on this post are from you Amr. Who is the one with too much time on his hands?

          • Amr

            Nope, just dont like know it alls

    • Amr

      The reason foreign people do not like us, is because of idiots like you.

    • Amr

      Maybe foreigners dislike you because your attitude sucks and the fact sound like a right jerk.
      Now stop feeling sorry for yourself and go and have a shower

  • http://www.facebook.com/jane.seymour.3745 Jane Seymour

    Thank you Sara for this report and information. There is no alternative than to close all of these Zoos, the conditions are appalling and treatment of the animals is sending their keepers to hell, and I mean this, anyone who abuses or mistreats animals is sure of a place there, is this the sharia that the Agricultural minister was proudly boasting of quote” ‘sharia in Islam protects animal rights’? For sure this petition will gain millions of signatures, and the Zoos WILL BE CLOSED.

  • Amr

    How can the Egytians care for animals when they do not care about their own fellow citizens

  • RDEF

    Abuse is abuse no matter whether it is perpetrated by whatever country or people. Animal cruelty and abuse demonstrates the very worst of the human condition. The animals are like children, totally defenseless and even worse have no way to speak of their suffering. Starvation, physical and emotional abuse for profit is criminal. These hell holes must be closed down. Egyptians changed one dictator for others of a different flavor. The military seems not to have given up the power they always have had. To starve animals to death in what has become a war zone shouldn’t be. These animals need to be rescued and relocated. Close all of those hell holes down.

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