In 2009, after two zebras died of starvation in a Gaza zoo, the owner painted two white donkeys with black stripes in a bid to pass them off as zebras.
“The first time we used paint, but it didn't look good,” Nidal Barghouthi, son of the zoo's owner, told Reuters at the time. “The children don't know, so they call them zebras, and they are happy to see something new.”
Barghouthi's father, Mohammed, told Reuters that because of Israeli blockades, it would have cost him around $40,000 to smuggle a zebra through Egypt — and the donkeys were doing a fine job in the meantime.
Has an Egyptian zoo now taken a page out of the Barghouthis' book?
This week, Mahmoud Sarhan, a student visiting Cairo's International Garden, posted a photo of himself posing with what does indeed appear to be a donkey painted like a zebra. There are even smudges on the animal's face where the paint may have dripped a bit in Egypt's summer heat.
In response to an inquiry from the Egyptian radio station Nogoum FM, the zoo insisted that the animal is not a painted donkey, the BBC reported.
It remains to be seen whether a potentially painted donkey will cause the kind of stir created five years ago when a Chinese zoo claimed to house a lion, when the animal in the lion's cage was, in fact, a dog. (To be fair, it was a Tibetan mastiff, and it did have quite a mane.)
Liu Suya, a zoo official, told CNN that the dog had replaced the lion temporarily because of “safety concerns.”
“We're not doing it out of shortage of funds,” she said.