Video of zebras being mistreated during journey to Iranian zoo sparks outrage
Issued on: Modified:
People in Iran have been shocked and horrified by a video that emerged on social media on May 4, 2021 showing zebras being mistreated during their transfer from a zoo in Bulgaria to one in Tehran, Iran. One of the animals was beaten while another died. According to an animal rights activist, this video highlights the unscrupulous practices of Iranian zoos and the failure of Iranian officials to ensure animal welfare.
The video was filmed on April 24, 2021 in the customs area in Bazargan, located on the border between Iran and Turkey, but it was only posted online 11 days later.
The footage shows several men trying to transfer the zebras from the container they had been travelling in to a container belonging to the Iranian Department of the Environment, a government organisation, so that they could then be transported to a zoo in Tehran.
The footage shows one of the zebras, a female, falling into a gutter and breaking a hoof while the men around her beat her to force her back into a container.
This video shows a zebra being mistreated. It was circulating widely on Telegram on May 4, 2021.
These animals were bound for Safadasht Zoo, which had acquired two female zebras and a male zebra. The idea was to breed them, thus increasing the number of zebras in the country. But the project collapsed when the only male zebra died a day after he arrived at the zoo. He had spent the seven previous days at Bazargan customs.
When the video showing the female zebra being mistreated appeared online, it sparked immediate outrage. Lots of people criticised the men who they said were not qualified to handle this transfer as well as the Safadasht Zoo itself. Others complained that Iranian authorities in general have little empathy for animals.
سه تا گورخر اوردن يكيشو كشتن اين دوتا هم كتك ميزنن و ميخندن.اينا انسانن اخه؟😔— ماري!! (@marjjO_o) May 9, 2021
“They brought three zebras to Iran, they beat two and they killed the last one. That makes them laugh, are they human?” this Twitter user commented.
گورخر آفریقایی یه هفته ای تو ایران تلف شد بعد من ۲۸ ساله دارم مقاومت میکنم— Sepehr (@sepihamz) May 6, 2021
“An African zebra died after a week here. I’ve managed to survive [en Iran, NDLR] 28 years here".
Blame game between the zoo and Iranian customs officials
Neither officials at Safadasht Zoo nor Iranian customs officials have taken responsibility for the death of one zebra and the mistreatment of another.
After the video appeared online, the official zoo Instagram account started posting insults aimed at the people who had been critical of the footage. Shortly thereafter, they backtracked, claiming that their account had been pirated. Users however, took screengrabs of the original messages.
On May 5, Alireza Sharafi, the director of the zoo, gave an interview to Iranian state television, claiming that "homeless people” and “agitators” were to blame for beating the zebras. The Iranian police regularly use the word “agitator” to refer to the political opposition. He added that the long wait at Iranian customs had killed the male zebra. He also claimed that the zebra was dead before it arrived at the zoo.
Unfortunately for the zoo director, another video appeared online on May 7 showing him mistreating the zebras.
برخلاف حرفهای مالک باغوحش صفادشت، او خودش هم در کتکزدن گورخرهای آفریقایی، نقش جدی داشته.— Tavaana (@Tavaana) May 9, 2021
اما چندروز پیش مالک این باغوحش بهشدت به منتقدانش حمله کرد و در تلویزیون گفت کتک زدن گورخرها کار اراذل بوده!#گورخر_آفریقایی
به نظر شما چرا دروغگویی در سطوح مختلف جامعه رواج یافته؟ pic.twitter.com/0y81O1XyTR
Alireza Sharifi, the director of Safadasht Zoo, is shown here beating a zebra. Sharifi wears a black shirt. This video was published on Telegram on May 7.
The Safadasht Zoo hasn’t published a single response since the new video emerged.
For their part, Iranian customs officials claimed that zoo staff hadn’t made an official request for the zebra’s transfer and hadn’t filled out the proper paperwork. The zoo denied this.
The Iranian customs’ Department of the Environment announced that they were launching an investigation into the video and the zebra’s cause of death.
“All the zoos in Iran should be closed”
Alireza Shahrdari is an animal rights activist based in Tehran:
“There are special protocols to follow when you are transporting animals. Clearly, in this case, those protocols were not respected. If the proper procedure had been followed, these animals wouldn’t have been abandoned for such a long time at customs and you wouldn’t have seen the behaviour on display in the video.
People need to have specialised training in order to know how to manage animals. These men clearly hadn’t been properly trained. They surrounded the animals, frightened them and then beat them.
But the problem goes much deeper than that. Safadasht Zoo doesn’t meet even the most basic standards. They don’t have qualified staff. They don’t have enough space to house the animals … and, despite all this, the Department of the Environment gave them a license, not just to run the zoo, but also to import animals. This department is also supposed to oversee the transportation of these animals, which it didn’t do, at least not properly.”
“The solution would be to ban zoos from buying new animals, especially breeding animals”
“These zoos have the money to buy animals and, so the Department of the Environment turns a blind eye. It’s all the more shocking because this zoo has killed other animals in the past few years: a giraffe in April 2019 and a tiger in January 2020.
But, in all honesty, there’s not a single zoo in Iran that respects basic standards. The situation is bad enough in Tehran and the surrounding areas but it’s literally horrible in the zoos outside of the capital.
However, shutting these zoos down isn’t really an option. If the government shuts them down, then the animals would need to be transferred to a suitable space, which doesn’t exist right now. So I believe the solution would be to ban zoos from buying new animals, especially breeding animals, and let the animals who are already living in the zoos finish their lives out. If zoos can’t get new animals, that will mean they’ll slowly shut their doors.