Roger Anis is one of the 25 projects/photographers shortlisted for the 2020 CAP Prize for Contemporary African Photography.
The government-run Giza Zoo in the heart of Egypt's chaotic, polluted capital survives and witnesses all the changes and tensions in the country since 2011.
The Giza Zoo is one of the biggest and oldest in the Middle East and Africa, originally built with the same standards of London Zoo in 1891. For a lot of Egyptians, it is one of the best amusement parks especially for children since it’s their only opportunity to be introduced to live animals.
The zoo receives little funding each year, making it hard to create significant developments. The funds are just enough to feed the animals and to do the most necessary improvements. The keepers there are mostly from villages and towns around the Cairo area. Some of them used to work as farmers on their land.
Most of them have been doing their jobs for many years, with some serving up to 40 years. They collect their knowledge and training by practicing, with a monthly salary of around $70 US. Many of them rely on augmenting their income by getting tips from the visitors for feeding the animals, giving information about the animals, or allowing the visitors to take pictures with the animals.
In recent years and even before the 2011 uprising, the zoo conditions are in decline. In 2004, the zoo lost its "World Associations for Zoos & Aquariums" (WAZA) membership, for failing to meet the standards and fees. After the revolution and with the economic-political crisis, it became definitely harder to look after the zoo.
In my project, I'm trying to look deeper inside the relationship between the zookeepers and the animals by portraying them together. It’s a relationship that takes years to develop. The keepers love the animals and are trying to treat them well even in very trying circumstances.