Mahmoud Sarhan, 18, visited the zoo in the International Garden Park in Cairo, Egypt on 21 July. He spotted a zebra that didn’t look quite right and took a few photos. He posted the images to Facebook, saying the zoo had painted a donkey to look like a zebra, adding that the paint was even smudged.

After the images went viral on social media and were picked up by media outlets, the director of the newly-opened Cairo animal sanctuary has insisted the zebra is the real thing. However, animal experts say the animal’s ears are much bigger than a normal zebra and look much more like those of a humble donkey.

Visit to the zoo in Cairo

As reported by the Telegraph, when Sarhan visited the zoo with his family, he was perplexed by the appearance of one of the zebras. He noticed that the animal’s face looked painted and that it looked like the black paint had been smudged. Sarhan theorized that this was actually a donkey, painted to look like a zebra. Mahmoud also noticed that the ears looked much too big for a zebra. The animal also had a smaller frame than the average zebra.

Sarhan posed with the strange looking animal and then posted the photo to his Facebook timeline, where people soon picked it up, sharing it and making it go viral.

In his caption to the image, he said that stupidity in the country had reached a new height when a zoo buys a donkey and paints it to look like a zebra.

Mohammed Sultan, the director of the Cairo zoo, told the country’s Youm 7 news channel that it was a real zebra and had not been painted. CNN reports that Sultan went on to say that the zoo takes good care of their animals and that they receive regular inspections to ensure their health and welfare.

PETA disagrees with the Cairo zoo’s director

A leader of the PETA animal activist group spotted the image of the zebra and said it was most certainly not being well cared for. In a statement to CNN, PETA Vice President Delcianna Winders said that no reputable animal sanctuary would take a skittish animal such as a donkey, restrain it and spray it with paint chemicals, which could lead to painful allergies for the animal.

Winders went on to say that they hoped authorities in Cairo will fully investigate the matter.

Zoo in China tried to pass off a dog as a lion

This isn't the first time this kind of stunt has been pulled. Back in 2013, a Chinese zoo tried a similar stunt by taking a shaggy dog and attempting to pass it off as a lion. In that case, the game was given away when the “lion” barked.