Public and animal welfare organizations have expressed skepticism in response to the official announcement that Egypt’s historic Giza Zoo will close its doors for a year to undergo improvements. According to Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, the president of Egypt, the initiative will “develop the zoo to be similar to its world-class peers.” He has expressed his displeasure before, claiming that the site shows “the extent of negligence and shortcomings” in the nation. In recent years, unfavorable conditions have attracted negative attention, including elephants tethered on short chains and monkeys provoked by children. The zoo has been expelled from the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (Waza) for a long time. The promise of numerous renovations includes the removal of the Victorian-era lion and bear cages and their replacement with open-range areas. However, advocates of animal rights are concerned. They criticize the plans for the zoo for their lack of transparency and disregard for the welfare of the animals housed there, some of which are endangered species.

Ismail Pasha, the then-ruler of Egypt, first established the Giza Zoo in 1891. He once remarked that he tried to integrate Egypt into both Europe and Africa. It featured treasured architectural elements like a miniature suspension bridge constructed by Gustave Eiffel ten years before the construction of his well-known Eiffel Tower, as well as unusual plants and uncommon animals. Currently one of Greater Cairo’s few green spaces, it is also a valuable piece of real estate next to a posh hotel and shopping center and adjacent to the west bank of the Nile.