Cash-strapped zoo paints a donkey to look like a zebra has a funny/sad story of a dilapidated zoo in Gaza. Marah, located near a refugee camp, is one of the only amusement centers for local families who live with no respite from the clashes and clampdowns that turn their neighborhood into a war zone.

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 fake zonkey.

It doesn't fool the lion, its African nemesis, which Slate's photo depicts as emaciated and listless in its separate cage.

Sanctions and war have taken a heavy toll on the animals in Gaza's ruined zoos. Many are starving, and many more perished altogether when Israeli shelling prevented resources from reaching them last December and January. The zoo, which also has a few broken-down rides such as bumper cars, quietly acknowledges the Barnum-esque 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.",feedConfig,entry&id=423983&pid=423982&uts=1248706407
Animals in the News
Connecticut authorities offered residents a chance Saturday to turn over illegally owned pets without punishment. The state's first exotic animal amnesty day netted this boa constrictor, among many others. Click through for more exotic animal tales.
Douglas Healey, AP
Douglas Healey, AP
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