Saturday, June 25, 2011

My experience at the Giza Zoo

For those of you who have been following my blog for the past few months, you've probably seen the last post I made about the Giza Zoo and the protests held there. I have heard so many horror stories about the Zoo; how badly the animals are treated, how small their enclosures are, how some animals are evidently so sick they require urgent veterinary care. I had to go and see for myself.

K and I decided to head out to Giza on a random afternoon, which also happened to be one of the hottest afternoons we'd seen in Cairo this year (Temps of 40 degrees Celsius +). Perfect in many ways; this gave us the opportunity to see how the Zoo accommodated for animals that are used to cooler temperatures, and how they helped them adapt to the sweltering heat.

For a two LE admissions fee per adult (less than 50 cents), you were in for the day. Upon entering, we were immediately approached by an enthusiastic man with a camera, offering us the "opportunity of a lifetime." What was this opportunity you may ask? The option of having our photo taken with a lion cub. I respectfully declined, thinking "lovely, not even five minutes into the zoo and already I'm wondering if they really know what it means to have wild animals in their care."


K grabbed a map, eager to explore the zoo that he has been visiting since he was a child. Our first stop was the foxes house, also home to jackals, and raccoons. It was here that I saw the first very big issue that the zoo has to address. Firstly, the space that the animals had was sufficient for the smaller fox, but the jackals (which are known to roam vast areas of land in the wild) had barely 4 meters squared in the outside of their enclosure. I know that they have more in the back, but still not sufficient for such roaming animals. And it wasn't just the space. Next to us was an Egyptian family. It seemed everyone had come for the day to see the animals. I noticed immediately that they were throwing food into the raccoon enclosure. Bread, chipsy, anything they happened to have in their hands was being thrown at the raccoons. There were no signs instructing people not to do this, and I'm sure this is common occurrence. One raccoon was enthusiastically reaching towards the group, obviously used to being fed scraps, to which one woman proclaimed "they're so hungry, ya haram!" Feeding the raccoon scraps, which itself is a scavenger, isn't so bad. But I hate to think what happens when animals with more sensitive stomachs and strict dietary requirements (like the mongoose two cages down) are fed such scraps. The Giza Zoo much see a host of stomach problems that are all caused by uneducated ignorant people thinking they are doing the animal justice by feeding it, and no zoo personnel looking out to make sure just this does not happen.

So first issue that definitely needs to be overcome: Instructing guests that the animals are fed by zoo staff. FFS. Animal welfare 101.

If you were to head into Giza Zoo, one thing that would strike you almost immediately is how green it actually is. Stepping off the always congested Nile Road, the Zoo is a welcome respite. The noise of the city disappears, and were it to be maintained adequately, the Zoo would be a wonderful place to spend time.

In fact, dotted around the grassy knolls in the Zoo you'll find families who have set up an impromptu brunch or picnic, happily eating away. You would think that people would be grateful to have such a place of beauty in which to enjoy their meal, and would leave it as they arrived in it. Right? Wrong.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle that the Zoo staff ABSOLUTELY must tackle, is the rubbish everywhere. People will eat, and leave all their trash behind. They will throw it into the pelicans lake. They will throw it into the meandering river that runs alongside one of the goat's paddock. They will even toss it into the space in front of the lion enclosure. It took effort for us to actually get pictures without rubbish being evident. This saddens me; two of the biggest issues that I see to be facing the zoo have very little to do with the condition that the animals themselves are kept in, and have EVERYTHING to do with the uneducated Egyptians that frequent the zoo. (Remember, with less than 5 LE entrance for 2 adults - it makes a very cheap day out...)

Chimp in cage far too small

When it came to the conditions of the animals, I have to admit I was expecting the worst. From everything I have heard about the zoo, I was expecting open wounds, starving animals, dangerous enclosures, minimal space, etc. I only saw this in three enclosures - the elephants, the bears, and the great apes. The Zebra had a huge paddock to herself (although I believe her 2 companions recently died in the Zoo - perhaps colicing had something to do with the JUNK visitors freely feed the animals), the buffalo and other herbivores had ample room, and the lion enclosure was huge. The elephant saddened me; such a majestic animal chained for the duration of its life and used solely as a photo prop, and the bears in the heat were really struggling. With 2-3 bears per cage, they had only a small bath in the middle of their cage that they were supposed to cool off with, and fans with misters attached. It was the small space of their cage combined with the equally small pool they had to cool off in that really lets you see these bears are not living lives of luxury. Same thing with the Great Apes; the Orangutan only had a few bars to climb, and no where near sufficient room to keep such an animal content.

At least they have a pool...

Elephant chained

So these are my experiences with the Zoo. They have some animals in absolutely unacceptable conditions; whereas others appear to be happy, alert, and healthy. I truly believe that the first big step is to impose fines on guests that treat the Zoo like any other public park - free to feed whomever they want and throw their trash wherever they want.

Here are some of the better pictures.

The Lion enclosure
For 1 LE, you too can feed the Zebra

Peacock on full display!

No comments:

Post a Comment