A zoo in Cairo has come under scrutiny after trying to pass off a donkey painted in black and white strips as a zebra. The animal was noticed by an 18-year-old student, Mahmoud A. Sarhani, when he visited the recently opened zoo in Cairo’s International Gardens Park last weekend.

He saw the unusual animal, clicked its pictures and posted it online where it went viral.

“We finished our tour then we decided to take some pictures. When we went to the zebra side, there was only one zebra,” Mahmoud said. “It came to us and the other one didn’t move, but when he came near to me, I realised from the first look that it was a painted donkey not a zebra.”

“People might realise that from the stripes. I sure felt shocked when people phoned me and asked me about this,” he added.

In one of the pictures, Mahmoud can be seen standing next to the “zebra” with a grin on his face. On closer inspection, the differences seem to stand out much clearer. The “zebra” in the picture has long floppy ears which look more like that of a donkey’s. Zebras have more rounded ears that stand in an alert posture.

The animal also lacked the shaggier mane a zebra usually has on the nape of its neck. Instead, it had slight tufts of jet black hair. The third and the most notable indication that proved the animal in the picture was not a zebra was its strips. The stripes looked strange and smudged, probably due to the heat. A zebra, on the other hand, will have distinct stripes that are unique.

Zebras In The Wild The features of the "zebra" found in a zoo in Egypt were drastically different from that of a real zebra. In this image, a herd of zebras is seen in the Okavango Delta, Botswana, April 25, 2018. Photo: Reuters/Mike Hutchings

Multiple veterinary physicians confirmed that the animal in the picture was not a zebra and was, as many had doubted earlier, a donkey, the Daily Mail reported. However, even after being confronted with the evidence, the Director of the International Gardens Park in Cairo has denied claims that the animal is a donkey.

In an unrelated incident in 2009, a zoo in Gaza painted two donkeys with black and white stripes after two of their zebras died.

The zebras at the Marah Land Zoo had died earlier that year due to starvation during the Israel-Hamas war. Since Israel had restricted importing animals into Gaza, the owners of the zoo decided to paint two donkeys to make them look like zebras instead.

According to the owner of the zoo, Mohammed Barghouthi, it would have cost over $40,000 to smuggle a real zebra. So he chose to use French-manufactured hair dye on two female donkeys.

"The first time we used paint but it didn't look good," Nidal, Barghouthi's son, said. "The children don't know so they call them zebras and they are happy to see something new."

Zebra Donkey Hybrid Even a hybrid between zebra and donkey looks different to the "zebra" in the pictures taken at the Cairo zoo. In this image, a hybrid (front) of zebra and a donkey plays with his mother at the Taigan zoo park outside Simferopol, Crimea, Aug. 5, 2014. Photo: Getty Images/Yuri Lashov

On another note, an offspring of a zebra and any other equine mammal is called a zebroid. There are multiple types of zebroids as well. A hybrid between a zebra and a donkey is called a zonkey. One between a zebra and a female horse is called a zorse, and a hybrid between a zebra and pony is known as a zony. But the “zebra” in the picture looked very different from a hybrid as well.