Zoo Paints Donkey To Look Like A Zebra — Then Denies It

Weird.

What animal looks like a horse, but has black and white stripes all over his body? A zebra, of course. This might be so, but a visitor at a Cairo zoo wasn’t fooled when he encountered an animal with these apparent attributes.

Earlier this week, student Mahmoud Sarhan went to Cairo’s International Garden Municipal Park and found what appeared to be a donkey whose body and mane had been painted with black and white stripes. The dead giveaways to the animal’s true identity were the donkey’s small size, long, pointy ears (real zebras have smaller, rounder ears) — and the paint smudges across his face.

Sarhan posted a photo on Twitter, and it went viral, inviting comments from all around the world.

Many people found the situation hilarious, while others expressed concern for the donkey, worrying that the paint chemicals were soaking into his skin and poisoning him.

“Poor thing, look at its eyes,” one commenter said. “Yeah he’s not impressed.”

The other animal in the enclosure also appeared painted with zebra stripes, according to a news source.

Bizarrely, zoo director Mohamed Sultan denied that the animals had been painted when speaking to local radio station, Nogoum FM.

This isn’t the first time animals have been painted to look like something they’re not. In 2009, a zoo in Gaza also painted two donkeys to look like zebras in order to avoid restrictions around transporting the animals. People have also been known to paint or dye domestic animals like dogs and cats, as well as wild animals like hedgehogs and turtles. Sadly, these acts can have deadly consequences if the paint or dye is toxic.

“It seems strange to subject animals to being painted for the sake of putting them on display — and in this particular case, to ostensibly dupe the public into believing they’re something else,” Joanna Grossman, equine program manager at the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), told The Dodo. “Animals in captivity — who already contend with the added stress of living in a confined and unnatural setting — deserve better treatment; they aren’t canvasses who need to be smeared with pigment, resin, or other substances.”

Whatever is going on at this Cairo Zoo, it’s bizarre. And hopefully short-lived.