Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mass poisoning campaign strikes Egypt

Yesterday evening an alert was sent out via Facebook that mass amounts of poison had been laid in the residential suburb of Maadi, in Cairo. The Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals posted the following to their page: "TO ALL MAADI PET OWNERS: Please avoid the streets with your pets for the next 48 hours, to avoid the mass poisoning currently taking place. 25 bags of poisoned meat have been located, and removed. We are currently forming a search party to determine if there are anymore bags laid, and to find any animals that may be in need of assistance."

The message quickly went viral, with animal rights groups and activists alike posting it to forums, re-posting to their own statuses or sending out messages containing the information. 

It did not take long for Hurghada animal rights activists to see the message and immediately question if the same case was true for Hurghada. In the past few weeks, activists here have seen an increase in the poisoning campaigns, despite word from the new Governor that the government would cease and desist such attempts to control the stray population and give activists a chance to implement Trap, Neuter and Release, or TNR programmes. 

I was told about two months back by a source that requested anonymity that the same 'deal' was made for the Cairo governorates. Animal shelters were told they had a set period of a few weeks to organize and launch a TNR campaign in the capital city and reduce the number of animals that were able to breed. Inter-organizational bureaucracy however hindered this process. My source informed me that due to the fact that two of the largest organizations in Cairo were unable to agree on who should cover the costs and fundraising for the TNR programme, the time they were given elapsed. The result was a mass poison campaign launched by the government. The pre-arranged deal however was immediately denied and brushed under the table, with the finger of blame pointed squarely at the government. 

Similar in Hurghada, as I have previously blogged, a TNR campaign was launched by activists here. Thus far the programme is proving to be successful as more and more local residents get in on it. The Blue Moon animal shelter has been instrumental in providing free services for stray animals in their attempts to control the stray population. So why did the poisoning campaign launched in Cairo reach Hurghada? 

Activists last night combed the area of Mubarak 6, but their search was hindered by the lack of light in the area. They have again headed out today to track down and remove any bags of poison that may have been laid out. Eye witnesses report that a blue pick-up truck has been seen roaming through the area and pausing intermittently near trash sites - often the location that the poisoned bags of meat are thrown down. This brings to mind the comments of Hurghada's governor, who had 'promised' that the poison campaigns would stop. Activists have claimed that should any bags of poison be traceable back to the government campaigns, that these bags of poison will be marched up to the governor's office directly to demand why he has fallen through on his rhetoric. By the time this blog has gone to post, I have been unable to independently verify that the poisoning campaign in Cairo has spread to Hurghada - and our local government vet has denied any government involvement in cases of poisoning in Hurghada. 

Does this then mean that it is individual residents placing the poisoned meat out? In many cases the answer is sadly yes. Alleged reports indicate that a restaurant owner on the beautiful corniche area has himself planted poison on the beach as the strays disrupt the peace and quiet of the area. Never an after-thought to the individual pets that are afflicted by their decisions to lay down the poisoned meat, or the danger that such toxins pose to humans.

I scoured Hadaba this morning and thankfully was unable to find any bags of poisoned meat, although this does not mean that it is not there. Often in Hadaba the poison is laid in the desert; knowing this I will never take Orien in there. The threat of poison is not limited to dog owners however, and the common poison of choice strychinine is known to prove fatal in cases where children are exposed to the toxin. However as autopsies are not a common practice in Egypt, it's difficult to pinpoint exactly and say "this child's death was the result of the government's poisoning campaign."  

At the end of the day, words are only words. Activists in Egypt have been given no reason to believe that mass poisoning campaigns will ever be stopped, and as long as it's seen as an effective way to eliminate the stray population those laying poison down have no reason to change. For all pet owners throughout Egypt, please be wary of when you are walking your dog. Don't use the time to talk on your phone or gossip, constant vigilance on your part is the only way to ensure that your dog won't put it's nose somewhere it is not meant to. If you find bags of poison, please remove them. I will post a blog later detailing what you can do to not only GET RID of the poisoned meat, but what you should do in case of accidental ingestion by your furry friend. 


  1. At the end of the day, the major campaign that should be launched is one echoed by old game show host Bob Barker: "Spay and neuter your animals." So in with that, help spay and neuter the animals that live life on the streets (if you can catch them). Furthermore, perhaps it would be great if there were some caring vets that grouped together and offered discounts for the practice when it pertains to street animals. In Tucson, Ariz. if you adopt an animal from Animal Control, they provide you with a list of cooperating vets that offer discounts from everything like shots, microchips, etc. This is a wonderful program that should be implemented everywhere. Unfortunately, many vets located in Egypt do not really have a passion for animals (at least far and few in between that I've found).

    1. Here in Hurghada streetanimals are 'done' for free by Blue Moon and other vets give discount or do it for free!
      We are not activist but just common normal people that want to help the animals and we drive around, pick up animals, catch them in special cages (wilder cats) bring them to the vet or clinic and bring them back in the area.
      We had a very good meeting at Blue Moon at last wednesday, where we got information about the poisons used, what to do in case you find a poisoned animal and first aid for animals.
      We have articles in the Spot Redsea and end of the month in Hurghada bulletin.
      We do not target the governor because nobody knows who is doing it untill now! There are seemingly quite some foreigners that ask for the contactpoison and put it in the streets and even in gardens from people with dogs...........
      We now gather info (date, figures and pictures) to have a file in case we catch the poisonners!

  2. I couldn't agree more. We're lucky enough in Hurghada to have a shelter that will do TNR programmes for free, and Dr. Mohammed Taiby (also our vet) is always ready and willing to lend a hand (and a discount!) with strays in need of not only spaying or neutering, but general first aid also.