In Egypt, stray dogs pose growing urban challenge

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Stray dogs are typically seen running about the streets and scavenging garbage for food. (AFP)
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There are no official data on the size of the stray dogs’ population but activists say they are running loose in millions. (AFP)
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Stray dogs are commonly referred to as ‘baladi dogs.’ (AFP)
Updated 29 January 2019

In Egypt, stray dogs pose growing urban challenge

  • Cairo is already plagued by monster traffic jams, widespread waste problems and rampant pollution
  • According to the agriculture ministry, there were around 400,000 cases of dog bites in 2017, up from 300,000 in 2014

CAIRO: Alaa Hilal was out shopping in Cairo when she was attacked by a stray dog in broad daylight — an increasing problem of daily life in Egypt which is stirring debate.
“I got out of my car and saw an exceptionally large street dog,” the 38-year-old housewife told AFP at her home, northeast of Cairo.
“He approached me and bit me without barking or doing anything else,” said Hilal, adding that she had been injured in the thigh.
An overpopulated mega-city of more than 20 million people, Cairo is already plagued by monster traffic jams, widespread waste problems and rampant pollution. Packs of stray dogs are only adding to the city’s challenges.
Complaints about dog attacks, exposure to rabies and in some cases even deaths over the years have triggered calls for the animals to be brought under control.
Commonly referred to as “baladi dogs,” strays are widely viewed as unsanitary and dirty. They are typically seen running around the streets and scavenging garbage for food.
According to the agriculture ministry, there were around 400,000 cases of dog bites in 2017, up from 300,000 in 2014.
And 231 people died over the past four years from the wounds they received, mainly as a result of rabies.
A bite from a dog carrying the rabies virus can be fatal within 24 hours as it damages the human’s nervous system, said Shehab Abdel-Hamid, the head of Egypt’s society for the prevention of cruelty to animals (SPCA).
Hilal, who had never feared dogs having had several pets when growing up, was rushed to a nearby hospital only to discover that she was the ninth person to be bitten by the same dog.
“Due to the trauma caused by this incident, I became worried and I no longer want to be in the same place with them,” she said.
There are no official data on the numbers of stray dogs, but activists say they are running loose in their millions.
A survey by the SPCA showed that the number of stray dogs “may reach up to more than 15 million,” Abdel-Hamid said.
And though street dogs appear to fear the most crowded areas, they can be loud and aggressive in poorly lit and rubbish-strewn suburbs.
In November, a video widely circulated on social media showed a car hitting a teenager who was being chased by two stray dogs.
“Garbage is the main reason behind the stray dogs’ crisis in Egypt,” said Abdel-Hamid, highlighting how the problem was exacerbated when the rubbish men stopped working during the 2011 uprising.
The SPCA, however, lacks resources. Its headquarters in downtown Cairo was looted during the uprising and has not been renovated since, Abdel-Hamid added.
And Egyptian authorities say they can only intervene on a case by case basis.
“We do not go around the streets looking for dogs to kill them,” said the agriculture ministry spokesman Hamed Abdel-Dayem. “We only take measures following complaints.”
He didn’t specify what measures are taken to bring the stray dog population under control.
But animal rights advocates often lambast the government, accusing it of mass culls.
In 2017, authorities killed more than 17,000 stray dogs following multiple complaints of dog “disturbances” and “biting” in Beni Sueif, south of Cairo, according to an August report by the governorate’s veterinary directorate.
The Red Sea governor even offered a 100 Egyptian pounds ($5.58) award to those who capture and hand over at least five strays.
Animal rights defenders also accuse the government of killing dogs using a drug, known as “strychnine,” a chemical substance listed as “unacceptable on animal welfare grounds” for euthanasia by the World Organization for Animal Health.
But Abdel-Dayem denied that the government imported banned substances.
“Is it logical that we (the ministry) allow internationally prohibited substances to enter the country?” he told AFP when asked about the strychnine claim.
Animal rights advocates have sought to offer solutions, actively removing dogs from the streets and giving them homes.
Ahmed Al-Shorbagi, 35, opened two dog shelters in a desert area west of Cairo, near the famed Giza pyramids.
The buildings with sheer concrete walls have kept more than 250 dogs safe for the past three years. Shorbagi contributes 40 percent to the funding of the shelters while the rest comes from donations.
“At first I followed the animal rescue pages on Facebook,” Shorbagi told AFP, rubbing one dog’s belly as she wagged her tail in joy.
“I saved a dog that I called ‘Hope’ and when I opened the shelter, I named it after her.”
Shorbagi believes the solution lies in dog sterilization programs, providing rabies vaccinations and removing the garbage.
“Instead of the government paying millions of dollars to import poison, it should consider sterilization,” he said.
“We, as associations, proposed to the ministry of agriculture to solve the problem but it refused.”
The ministry’s spokesman denied however refusing to cooperate with private entities and hailed their work to help resolve the crisis.


World’s shortest man dies in Nepal at 27

In this file photo taken on September 24, 2010 Nepalese teenager Khagendra Thapa Magar poses for a picture with Miss Nepal Sadichha Shrestha (C) and first runner-up Sahana Bajracharya (R) and second runner-up Samyukta Timilsina (L) in Kathmandu. (AFP)
Updated 18 January 2020

World’s shortest man dies in Nepal at 27

  • Magar became an official face of Nepal’s tourism campaign, which featured him as the smallest man in a country that is home to the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest

KATMANDU: The world’s shortest man who could walk, as verified by Guinness World Records, died Friday at a hospital in Nepal, his family said.
Khagendra Thapa Magar, who measured 67.08 centimeters (2 feet 2.41 inches), died of pneumonia at a hospital in Pokhara, 200 kilometers from Katmandu, where he lived with his parents.
“He has been in and out of hospital because of pneumonia. But this time his heart was also affected. He passed away today,” Mahesh Thapa Magar, his brother, told AFP.
Magar was first declared the world’s shortest man in 2010 after his 18th birthday, photographed holding a certificate only a bit smaller than him.
However he eventually lost the title after Nepal’s Chandra Bahadur Dangi, who measured 54.6 centimeters, was discovered and named the world’s shortest mobile man.
Magar regained the title after Dangi’s death in 2015.
“He was so tiny when he was born that he could fit in the palm of your hand, and it was very hard to bathe him because he was so small,” said his father, Roop Bahadur, according to Guinness World Records.
As the world’s shortest man the 27-year-old traveled to more than a dozen countries and made television appearances in Europe and the United States.
“We’re terribly sad to hear the news from Nepal that Khagendra is no longer with us,” said Craig Glenday, Guinness World Records editor-in-chief.
“Life can be challenging when you weigh just 6 kilograms and you don’t fit into a world built for the average person. But Khagendra certainly didn’t let his small size stop him from getting the most out of life” he said.
Magar became an official face of Nepal’s tourism campaign, which featured him as the smallest man in a country that is home to the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest.
During his stint he met other short people around the world, including the shortest woman, Jyoti Amge, from India.
In a video released by Guinness World Records, Magar is seen playing a guitar with his brother, riding a bike and sitting at his family’s shop.
The world’s shortest non-mobile man remains Junrey Balawing of the Philippines, who measures only 59.93 centimeters but is unable to walk or stand unaided, according to Guinness World Records.
The record for shortest living mobile man is now retained by Edward “Nino” Hernandez of Colombia, a reggaeton DJ who stands 70.21 centimeters tall, Guinness said.