Police convoys and security patrols, crowds of angry people and fires blazing. This was the scene on Monday in the village of Kafr Hemeid, Ayat, Giza governorate, after the mauling to death of a little girl by an escaped tiger.
The animal was one of several tigers kept at the residence of Amr Saad, a businessman who lives in the area. Having escaped, the tiger attacked and killed a 12-year-old girl, Amany Mohamed Fadl, who was then buried at the family cemetary.
The family then shut themselves away, grieving in isolation. Fadl’s schoolmates came to pay their respects, devastated that she had died in such terrifying circumstances.
Our reporters arrived at Fadl’s home, her father refusing to say anything or be interviewed, only saying prayers and asking for the law to take its rightful course in punishing Saad.
Hany Mohamed, Fadl’s uncle recounted the incident. Fadl returned from school on Monday, after which her father decided to take her out to a farm where he works, about 500 meters from Saad’s private home. As the girl played with her friends, a tiger jumped up and attacked her, biting her on the neck and dragging her a good distance away. Fadl is thought to have died instantly.
Residents of the village acted instantly by shooting the tiger dead, at which point the police arrived to record the incident. Villagers claim that the incident was the result of Saad’s negligence, having failed to keep the animal safely within its enclosure.
According to the villagers, Saad, breeds tigers and other endangered wild animals for sale, a practice that appears to be illegal in Egypt. However, despite the apparent illegality of Saad's operation, he has thus far been allowed to continue in business.
With great anger and indignance, Mohamed Fadl, the victim’s uncle, said, “Nothing will be done here, because the owner of the tiger is obviously above the law. The residents of the village filed a large number of complaints against him over the years, but to no avail.
"All the reports ended in his favour, on the basis that the village inhabitants were not truthful in their reports. They were called liars for reporting that he is housing wild animals at his home. He imports them and sells them for business. A variety of wild animals are on the farm: lions, tigers, leopards, hyenas, not to mention large snakes, scorpions and others as well.”
Om Mohamed, Fadl’s aunt, explains that they want justice for their dead daughter. She expressed the family's deep sadness, saying that they raised this girl for 12 years and she was taken from them just like that.
The aunt explains that Saad’s residence is not fenced or even surrounded by trees. It is just open to the rest of the village, a fact that she says demonstrate's the businessman’s negligence in making sure his residence is suitable to house wild animals without endangering the locals’ lives.
Om Mohamed recounts several other escaped animals, attributing this to the fact that they are kept in weak cages that they can easily escape from.
Our reporters went to Saad’s residence, which was surrounded by a mob of locals who were burning trees around house to express their anger. The mayor of the village was present, along with armed patrol men who stopped the locals from getting too close to Saad’s house, lest they get attacked by animals also.
The roars and yelps of lions and tiger were audible. Locked in cages, they had not been fed in two days, according to some residents, who had observed that the workers responsible for taking care of the animals had quit their jobs two days before.
Police officials from the Ayat Police Station arrived on the scene. The mayor told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the Giza Security Director called him, urging him to go down to Saad’s farm to assess the situation and do whatever he could to resolve the issue.
Residents say that several tigers and hyenas had escaped from Saad’s farm a few days before the incident. The same tiger that killed Fadl had escaped once before, according to residents.
They are conducting a sit-in, insisting they won’t budge until the farm’s operations are closed down and the culprit brought to justice.
They recount previous occasions on which they have filed reports against Saad for owning dangerous animals in such condictions. A committee from the Ministry of Environment came to the farm and ended their visit by insisting that all the animals were docile and domesticated — a conclusion the villagers dismiss as quite obviously nonsense.
Ayat Prosecution, under the supervision of counsellor Hatem Fadel, the primary attorney of the South Giza prosecution, has ruled that Saad be imprisoned for four days pending an investigation.
He is facing charges of negligence in the care of dangerous animals, resulting in the death Fadl. Other charges include housing wild animals and trafficking them, which is a violation of the Environment Law (No. 4 of 1994).
Two of the tigers kept behind bars at the residence of businessman Amr Saad in Ayat, Giza