Slate reports the story of a dilapidated zoo in Gaza. Marah, located near a refugee camp, is one of the only amusement centers for local families. Although customers regularly admire the lone, sullen zebra from the other side of its cage bars, few of them have recognized its true lineage: It’s actually a painted donkey. The zoo wanted a real zebra, but current regulations prevented a specimen from being delivered to Hamas-held Gaza for anything less than $30,000, and even then, it would have to be smuggled through a tunnel from Egypt’s Sinai.
So the managers, intent on doing more with less, tried henna, which didn’t stick. Then they ruled out wood paint because it might hurt the animal – they are, after all, still zoologists. In the end, they settled on human hair dye. After buzzing the donkey’s coat short, they hand-painted the pattern. The result: the world’s first zonkey.
It doesn’t fool the lion, its African nemesis, which Slate’s photo depicts as emaciated and listless in its separate cage.
War has taken a heavy toll on the animals in Gaza’s ruined zoos. Many are starving, and many more perished altogether. The zoo, which also has a few broken-down rides such as bumper cars, quietly acknowledges the lie, but defends it for the happiness it brings to war-smashed families.
“Don’t tell anyone,” the zoo director told the Slate writer. “The children love him.”