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Painted donkeys stand in for zebras at Gaza Strip zoo

October 28, 2009 | 10:53 pm

Donkeys

Are they zebras, or are they donkeys?  Well, if you ask the staff and visitors at Gaza's Marah Land zoo, the (bizarre) answer is: They're both.

Because of Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, obtaining a real zebra would be a tricky business involving smuggling and a hefty expense -- $40,000 for a single zebra was zoo owner Mohammed Bargouthi's estimate.  So zoo staff took matters into their own hands and went DIY, using just a roll of masking tape, a paintbrush and some women's hair dye to turn two white donkeys into imitation zebras.  ("The first time we used paint but it didn't look good," Bargouthi's son Nidal told Reuters of the process.)

They kind of look like zebras, if you squint.  But to schoolchildren in Gaza who have never seen a zebra, they're just as good as the real thing, according to Nidal.  "The children don't know so they call them zebras and they are happy to see something new," he said.  So far, according to Slate, none of the children have caught on that their beloved zebras are actually imposters.  But, zoo director Mahmud Berghat acknowledged, two university students did spot the bit of trickery.  No matter; no one seems inclined to let on to the zoo's youngest visitors.

Check out The Times' photo gallery for more shots of these faux zebras (and some real zebras as well, for comparison).

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Marco Longari / AFP/Getty Images

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