Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Giza Protest II

Animal rights in Egypt have long been a bone of contention for many that come to visit this country. I remember when I first moved to Egypt, across the street from my bedroom window I could see my neighbours roof. On this roof lived a puppy, permanently tethered and with little to no human contact. My sister and I tried everything to get the dog, including talking to the building's doorman in an attempt to get to the owner, and offer to take the dog off of his hands. Unfortunately, it was a quick lesson in Egyptian animal rights.

The puppy was a purebred boxer, and of course a dog that constitutes a status symbol. Many purebred animals in Egypt are bred repeatedly not out of love for the animal, but out of love for the status symbol that they become.  Owning a pure German Shepherd, or Husky, can be in the minds of many the equivalent to driving a BMW or the newest Mercedes. The thought of actually purchasing an animal as a companion is an alien idea to many dog and cat owners here.

Sadly, the condition of dogs and cats in Egypt are not isolated cases. Zoos throughout the country exhibit some of the more egregious examples of animal cruelty.

On the Alex desert road sits an "animal sanctuary," known as the Lion park. Here, you can walk in and cuddle with lion cubs and tigers, and for the right bidder, even take one home. These animals are kept in small cages, with minimal room to move about, underfed, and evidently lacking adequate veterinary care.

Giza Zoo, located in the bustling city of Cairo, is no exception to this general rule. The zoo has long been the focus of animal rights groups who will point to the violations of animal rights within the zoo. The irony? CITES, the government arm that is meant to regulate animal trade, welfare, and rights, has their main office located within the zoo. Gives you warm fuzzy feelings inside to know that the people who are meant to be helping the animals in this country witness gross neglect on a daily basis, and do little to nothing to prevent it.

My most recent encounter with CITES involved the illegal transport of four bottlenose dolphins into the Hurghada Airport. CITES reported that 3 of these dolphins came from inside the country, and that their papers were all in order. Sources have told me that this couldn't be further from the truth. Of the four dolphins, only one had its papers correct; the other three were illegally smuggled into the country with the full knowledge of CITES officials. Just goes to show, pay a little money into the right pockets, and you can do anything in Egypt. [see more here.]

Dolphins in Hurghada drew the spotlight a few months back when it was uncovered that they were being held in a compound and shut away inside a villa's pool, where they were meant to wait out their quarantine period. 4 dolphins, stuck in a pool with no filtration system, that measured a measly 5 metres x 5 metres. Again, CITES washed their hands of the situation. [See more here.]

The Egyptian Revolution lit a fire in many people, animal rights activists included. This past Saturday, April 16th, a group of Egyptian animal welfare activists banded together to protest the outrageous cruelty witnessed in the Giza Zoo. Consisting of the Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals (ESMA), the Egyptian Society of Animal Friends (ESAF), and the Animal Welfare Awareness Research (AWAR), protesters took to the Giza streets to raise awareness, and try to push the Egyptian government towards finally enacting legislation to help protect animal rights in the country.

Mona Khalil, co-founder of ESMA, told reporters:

“The way Egypt treats animals is a shame. The Giza zoo is a national disgrace, Egypt has become known as a hub of the international illegal trade in wildlife, and the municipal policy of controlling street animal populations by shooting and poisoning is deplorable.

“Pet breeding and pet shops are part of an unregulated and illegitimate industry in which humans exploit animals for commercial gain, yet do not pay taxes or benefit the Egyptian economy.

“At the root of all this is a not only systemic corruption but also policy failure, as Egypt is lacking even the basic animal welfare legislation that would enable the prosecution of violators. Some will say that now is not the time to ask for animal’s rights, when human rights are still being violated. But actually there is no better time, as Egypt is trying to build a more just and humane society for all its inhabitants.” [source]

Protesters were able to get inside the Zoo and snap some photos of the abuse in action. This included allowing people into the Elephant enclosure for a "picture opportunity" (Seen below) until the activists were forced to put their camera's away by the zoo's management. 

What was the aim of this protest? Simply to present to the Giza Zoo management a list of request on how to improve the situation inside the zoo, as well as raise awareness of the plight of animals in Egypt. Susie Nasser, co-founder of ESMA, states that "Management refused to accept the document we wanted to deliver for the changes we want....we had a follow up meeting with the Minister of Agriculture and voiced our demands, there will be follow up meetings with his staff.. We hope we have made leeway!"

We hope so indeed. 

So what's next for these activists? For now, online campaigns and awareness, until a new movement can be organized in the Red Sea. The objective? Bring to people's attention the fact that the four dolphins currently housed in the Makadi Bay dolphinarium were in fact illegally smuggled into this country, and illegally caught from the wild. Activists will work to push people to boycott the dolphinarium, as it is only by ridding them of their revenue that we can hope to effect change. Sadly, there is little that can be done for the four dolphins inside now, but may their tragic story of being caught in the wild and forced to live in degradation in a backyard swimming pool, ending up as slaves for human entertainment serve as a vivid reminder of the atrocities committed within Egypt, all for the sake of seeing a dolphin jump through a hoop. We're on the Red Sea, go and see them in the wild. It's what nature intended.

The elephant enclosure, measuring little more than 6 metres by 25 metres 

This elephant has been chained for 25 years in the Giza Zoo
Before activists were chased off, they were able to capture this image showing
people being allowed into the Elephant Pen for a photo op. Pictured in yellow is
the zoo's "official photographer."

This Camel is kept tethered day and night, because according to zoo officials, it "does not get along with the pony it shares its enclosure with"
Close up of the Camels foot

Bear Cage, and yes, this is the full size. It is common practice for visitors to the
Zoo to feed the bear through the bars, and poke it with sticks

Placards held by the protesters outside the zoo

This image speaks for itself

Appealing to the religious sentiments

Protesters handed out leaflets in traffic advocating animal rights

Protesters braved the heat to spread their message

Representatives of the Animal Welfare organizations pictured with the
Egyptian Minister of Agriculture


  1. Oh my goodness... I had no idea it was like that in Egypt! The madness and crulty must stop. I pray Kisha Curtis is made an example on May 6th. I wish she too would go without food for a couple of months so she would experience her own hands of suffering! Thank you, Suz, for the information in your article !! Go Patrick!!!

  2. What is "humanity" when humans are so capable of such cruelity maybe we should not use the word "humanity" as a a description for kindness and altruism and just use the word kindness instead.
    I think that there are some people have no empathy for anything and all we can do is educate and spread the word and help others feel the pain of the abused and hopefully put an end to this kind of human behavior.