Egypt’s Zoo Of Horrors Where Animals Are Tortured And Garbage Piles Up

Egypt’s Zoo Of Horrors Where Animals Are Tortured And Garbage Piles Up

The elephant howls as the long, metal stick hits his head. The man carrying the stick shouts at the African elephant, commanding him to put on a show so visitors would hand him an Egyptian pound.

As the metal stick hits the large elephant once more, this time smacking him in the body, the man grins and reassures onlookers that the elephant will come to the fence where they are waving dark-green leaves of lettuce.

The man succeeds; the onlookers give him a couple pounds and proceed to take photos with the helpless animal. As they capture their memories at the Giza Zoo, the man takes out the last cigarette from his cigarette pack, lights it up, and throws the packet into the muddy cage where the elephant stands.

The elephant abuser smoking on the job.
The man who smacked the African Elephant with a long stick multiple times.

This is just one of the many atrocious sights visitors encounter at the Giza Zoo, once one of the world’s premier zoos.

Founded in 1881 by Khedive Ismail, the Giza Zoo was once among the world’s best zoos. Today, after being expelled from the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums in 2004, the Giza Zoo is no longer the crown jewel it once was. Instead, it is now the scene of animal abuse, litter and poor management.

Pelican featuring an empty coca cola bottle.

“It was shocking how they held the cubs,” said one British tourist at the Zoo who paid to take a photograph with the cubs.

Their parents, according to one zookeeper, are locked in cages and only allowed to freely roam in larger spaces for two or three hours a day. In one of the latest incidents of abuse towards the lions, zoo visitors pelted the caged lions as a zookeeper happily looked on.

The small, dingy cages are not limited to the lions, but extend to species of all types. In another sight, a red fox anxiously paces back and forth in the poorly-lit cage that does not give an animal of his size and agility enough space to breathe.

For several minutes at a time, the fox paces up and down the cage with his head down staring at the only ground he has come to know in a while. There is no vegetation for this fox, just empty ‘chipsy’ and chocolate wrappers decorating the thick, grey dust that covers the ground.

The fox and his tiny cage

These examples witnessed in just one visit are just some of many well-documented cases of abuse and neglect at the Giza Zoo: In 2013, a three-year-old giraffe reportedly committed suicide due to mental issues, and three black bears died under what Zoo authorities called a ‘bear riot’; in 2008, two men broke into the Zoo and killed two camels; in 2006, more than 500 birds were slaughtered to prevent the outbreak of the bird flu; in 2004, two gorillas thought to be infected with the Ebola virus were killed by zookeepers;

Walking around the Giza Zoo, often visited by families and couples hoping to escape Cairo’s pollution, one stumbles upon informational signs that had not been updated in decades, litter that is floating on the water used by flamingos, broken benches and seats, and street vendors who hassle zoo visitors, particularly those who look foreign and will likely have more cash than their Egyptian counterparts.

The issue of litter is prevalent across the Zoo. From the cages housing camels, bears and various monkeys, to lakes and man-made water holes for different species of birds and seals. The large monkey pit, which is arguably one of the Zoo’s most visited attractions, is lined up with used wrappers, cans and even diapers.

Along with the garbage and animal abuse, another stringent issue is that zookeepers appear to know little about animal health and wild life conservation. From the zookeeper who is trying to earn a few pounds by convincing passerby’s to take a photo with one of the caged animals, to others who are smoking, eating, or arguing with their colleagues on the job, it appears many zookeepers have little to no qualifications for the job.

Many of the animals are constantly fed different forms of vegetables by zoo visitors who pay a couple pounds for a photo. The feeding, which is allowed by the zookeepers who provide the food, appears to take place even outside the animals’ eating schedules.

A man pays the zookeeper so his children can feed the caged ostrich and get a photo
A child takes a photo with one of the animals.

More importantly, a visit to the Giza Zoo is not educational. In a country where animal rights are not prominent, the Zoo should provide an educational experience for visitors. Instead, zookeepers know little to nothing about the animals they are responsible for, and worse, informational signs are either outdated or too worn out to read.

A worn out sign.
Visitors check out the Zoo’s map.

While the Zoo’s animals are forced to live in dirty and small cages, the Zoo’s administration hides behind a spotless, old (and likely heritage) villa, meters away from the disaster outside.

Egyptian Streets attempted to interview the Zoo’s manager. We hoped to discover whether the director felt she was upholding the Zoo’s mission, which includes ‘keeping and presenting animals at the Giza Zoo according to the best practice’.

The building that houses the Zoo’s administration.

Led into a small office, just one room away from where the director sat, we were told that we cannot interview her until going through multiple bureaucratic steps. These steps involve sending an application to the Ministry of Agriculture, waiting at least one week for the application to be considered, sending back the Ministry’s response to the Zoo, and then finally gaining permission to interview the director.

In the end, the Giza Zoo will appeal to the everyday Egyptian visitors who hope to escape the city’s smog and crowded streets. However, it is a miserable, poorly managed, and neglected location that is rife with animal abuse.

The Giza Zoo should aim to provide an educational experience for children and teach them about animal rights instead of presenting them with animal abuse.

Let’s save the Giza Zoo by demanding the government take action. Use the hashtag #SaveGizaZoo on social media to raise awareness of the blatant neglect that has gone on for too long.

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  • Anne

    This zoo brought these innocent animals to this concrete hell and with not a shred of empathy for their traumatised life continues with violent physical abuse and allow visitors to do the same is an example of why this hell should be shut down and send these suffering animals to a sanctuary! Zoos have no place with this abhorrent human race!

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  • Linda Boyce

    disgusting the suffering is so horrific no compassion nothing for the animals at all.Beaten if they don’t do what they are supposed to and beaten if they do.Beaten just for the hell of it shame on you all

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  • Mostafa Moemen

    The Egyptian mentality does not reach the understanding of other creatures, even if management issues were resolved, employees do not understand the meaning and the level of responsibility of their jobs. the Egyptian man/woman have no no idea about animal rights or the fact they are creatures just like humans feel everything around them just like a child. the status in the Giza Zoo is far from problem solving, the zoo must be closed and animals moved to proper conservation facilities that insure the animals health and status overall, associations and zoos around the world can participate in the process until further upgrade of the zoo or the complete shut down of the Giza zoo due to extremely poor animal and enclosure conditions, the complete ignorance of employees at the facility and the infinite regulations of animal rights.

  • shelley mattocks

    Many of us have been fighting this system for far too long. The new laws that have been written up would see these people jailed if they were enforced. This place us a disgusting vile place full of torture animal abuse and pain. Thank god Fat.a Tammam is finishing this year as zoo director. Lets hope when she’s gone well see changes for the good

  • Wessam Ahmed

    Thanks for shedding light on the issue. I’ve never been to the Giza Zoo, but I can tell you it’s on my list of places to avoid if I ever decide to further explore Cairo (Giza, in this case). I’m sold, this website needs to stay up.

  • Karim Abo Zeid

    I am not going to write a long useless comment, explaining how bad we are in business management and cannot run a small grocery shop, not a big firm even… Just have a look at this website http://www.alainzoo.ae and you will realise the difference between the management ways in Egypt and UAE. I have been living in Dubai for almost 6 years, yes they do have money and can turn up any project within ultimate time, but maintaining and managing that project does need money, it needs good managers… I guess I can rest my case now.

  • anita altun

    I have lived in Cairo, and I was asked several times if I would come to the zoo in Giza. . I refused, I do not like zoo. This is the wrong place for the animals. But that the zookeepers abusing animals in such a way, is terrible ! This must be stopped !. I love Egypt, but now i must say shame on you for this.

  • Eric Zoetmulder

    Frankly, I am not all that surprised. Life in the Zoo for animals, is really not all that different from life outside (for the Egyptian people) with dirt, abuse and exploitation piling up. There might be a case here for lots and lots of student volunteers, acting as zoo-ambassadors, playfully teaching visitors the do’s and don’t’s

  • sadi

    This is disgusting! There should be rules and laws (irrespect of the country) that covers all zoo’s, sanctuaries and game parks, reserves and national parks where wildlife are kept, across the world. A world wide organization should be put in place to stop this and should have jurisdiction across the world! Any person that abuses any animal from dogs, cats, wildlife etc should be given severe sentences. In some countries there are NO laws against this abuse and it is time these countries stop getting away with this. Countries or states should be fined for any abuse in their state or country!

    • Eric Zoetmulder

      Dear Sadi, There are lots of rules (irrespective of country) that cover all humans but still prove unenforceable worldwide. Just look at easy to grasp stuff like Global Compact, The Millenium goals and human rights in the general sense. Many, way too many are the nations that step on these and do not give a toss.

  • Brita Ekberg

    Some time ago there was news on the net that visitors were allowed to throw stones at helpless caged lions at the Giza zoo in plain sight of the “handlers”. This is just like the Surabaya zoo, horrible.

  • thebandthatneedsnointroduction

    Just a small correction…did you mean to say the Khedive Ismail found the zoo in 1881 rather than 1981?

  • ummu Mariam

    Why saving this zoo?
    Egyptians won’t change their mentality with animals.
    It would Egypt tter to save the animals.
    Can’t we just take the animals from them and bring them to other zoos?

    I have been living in Egypt for years.
    They don’t have a heart for animal’s.
    In the streets they abuse dogs and cats just for fun.
    And they are dirty, have no sense for cleanliness.
    All what they care about is money.

    I can’t understand why no organization in this world helps those precious animals.
    Egypt shouldn’t have any animals at all.

    • Eric Zoetmulder

      Aren’t you a little harsh on our hosts? Indeed, Egypt is unthinkingly hard and harsh to animals, all of them and one wonders waht the point is of having a zoo in polluted Cairo. However, come to think of it, the Zoo is a public sector outfit. (mis)managed by government bureaucrats.
      Maybe, privatizing the zoo can be the answer. Learn from Singapore Zoo to understand how a zoo can be animal humane and profitable.

    • Ahmed Morad

      Well I’m not sure if you met all the 85M egyptian before you decide that all of them have no heart,generalising here doesn’t serve any purpose..

      • ummu Mariam

        True, I haven’t met all 85m Egyptian.
        But as I said I lived there for many years till two months ago.
        And they really do not care for animals.
        Sure not all of them abuse animals.
        But almost all of them look away and don’t do anything about it.
        I have seen kids killing a dog in a park in front of lots of people. Nobody even spoke up to safe that puppy.
        Kids were having fun and kicking the little puppy and beating it just for fun.
        I went to help and shouted to all people and asked them why nobody does something or help.
        People looked at me and laughed.
        They didn’t even understand what I meant.
        And the problem wasn’t the language because I speak arabic!

        The youth abuse animals just for fun , every day you can find killed dogs and cats.
        And what about few weeks ago when two guys went into the giza zoo , in the place from the monkeys and beated up the monkeys while all zoo visitors were laughing and klapping in their hands.
        Nobody spoke up. Everybody was laughing and having fun.
        They even stole all bananas from the monkeys.
        The security from the zoo also didn’t do anything.

        And yes there are vet doctors in Egypt.
        Some of them are real good and try to help while other Egyptians attack those doctors because they help animals and not human.

        And then there is still the thing that no doctor wants to euthanize dogs. As I found a dog wich was beaten up by young boys. The dog was from his neck down paralyzed and was suffering huge pain.
        I had that dog a week on my balcony and no doctor wanted to euthanize the dog.
        Although the dog was suffering so much and not able eather to eat or drink alone or even to move.
        They said , when he has to die then he will die.
        I was shocked!!!!
        Eventually finally after a week I found one dr who accepted to kill the dog.
        As I said , not all Egyptians abuse.
        But almost all of them look away.
        Nobody helps.
        People see how others abuse and kill animals and they don’t feel like doing something about it.
        And the guys who buy Sheppard dogs they are wors.
        The youth love Shepard dogs and have no idea how to deal with those dogs. They swag around in the streets with their dogs, and abuse their dogs every day with their bad knowledge.
        And most dogs are very skinny as well.
        All those guys care about is to have a aggressive dog who can bite. And they put a dog on a tree with a bondage and abuse and kick it with lots of people because they believe that in this way the dog gets aggressive.
        I have seen it with my own eyes many times.
        And I used to be a dog trainer in Germany.
        I AM a german.
        And we treat animals way different as what I saw in Egypt.
        Germany has also laws , for animal abuse you can go to court and even jail. But in Egypt nobody cares.
        There are laws in Egypt as well.
        But when you go to police Because you saw someone killing a dog they just laugh and don’t do anything about it.

        I lived there many years. And it was extremely seldom to see someone helping a cat or dog.
        Some people who have stores they allow a cat to be in there and give some food.
        But nobody helps when a animal gets abused.
        Sorry , but I can talk only about experience…

        • Ahmed Morad

          I never said Egypt was the animal’s paradise and i will never say, i agree that many people are treating animals badly, but i can still see some hope in there…

          have a look at what these guys are doing and tell me if “ALL of them don’t care for animals” (as you said)


          • ummu Mariam

            MashAllah there are still few Egyptians wich are good with animals. And true, we shouldn’t never give up hope.
            But it will take many many years till we could change the Egyptian mentality concerning animals.

  • Tiger Lover

    What the #&#@! why? who? Can someone just help the animals?

  • cewing2301

    I wont understand if WAZA has written them off. why in the HELL do they still have these animals??? Someone do something about this over there. I bet those oil rigs are nice and shiny tho

  • Barbara Lovett

    I’m so horrified that this is happening anywhere in the world. The abuse and blatant disrespect for our fellow earthlings is beyond my comprehension.


Mohamed Khairat is the Founder of Egyptian Streets.

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