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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 April 2019

Tourists in Santorini urged to consider donkey welfare

Visitors to the Greek island have been asked to think twice before using donkeys to get around

Tourists in Santorini are being urged to think twice before riding donkeys. Courtesy The Donkey Sanctuary
Tourists in Santorini are being urged to think twice before riding donkeys. Courtesy The Donkey Sanctuary

The tiny Greek island of Santorini is a holiday favourite that’s known for its white clifftop houses that offer some truly epic sunsets. Nestled in the southern Aegean Sea, the country welcomes millions of visitors every year to its volcanic shores which might be good news for tourism, but has been bad news for the archipelago’s donkeys. Tourists daunted by the island's steep slopes are using the animals to help them navigate the volcanic terrain.

One of the most traversed routes on the island is the climb from the port where thousands of cruise passengers arrive each week, to Fira – the clifftop capital that’s 400 metres above sea level. Travellers can get there by foot or cable car. The first option requires physical fitness and the latter can involve a lengthy wait in the sun for a space on a car. As a result, many tourists have been opting for another mode of transport and going via donkey.

As tourist numbers have increased, more donkeys and mules have been brought to the island from France, but the animals' welfare has not been set a priority. Which is why UK-charity The Donkey Sanctuary has launched a new campaign asking visitors to ‘put yourself in their hooves.’

In partnership with Cruise Lines International Association, the charity is asking holidaymakers to consider how they would feel working under the same hot, heavy, conditions. While recognising that donkeys have been used for hundreds of years around the world, the charity wants people to be aware of problems that can occur when using working donkeys Tourists should be aware if the animals have enough water and shelter, whether the owners are being considerate of the donkey and its welfare and to look for any wounds or ill-fitting saddles and harnesses. Tourists are also asked to consider the size of the donkey in comparison to the weight of the people keen to ride it.

The campaign will also work to help provide information and education to owners on caring for the animals as well as helping to provide training for local equine health service providers.

It’s not the first time that donkey lovers have urged tourists to look after animals in Santorini. Last year, after over 100,000 signatures filled a change.org petition to stop animal abuse, the Greek government issued new laws limiting the weights that donkeys are allowed to carry.

The Donkey Sanctuary has been working with the Greek Animal Welfare Fund for over 18 years in a bid to improve equine conditions in the country.

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Updated: April 10, 2019 02:05 PM

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