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How you can support the campaign to protect Santorini's donkeys


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The donkey's calm temperament makes them a family-friendly animal. However, recent investigations have shown that donkeys are being pushed to their limits transporting tourists around the Greek island of Santorini.

Whilest tourists benefit from a leisurely ride from point A to point B, Lonely Planet has revealed that the donkeys carrying them suffer from exhaustion, spinal injuries and saddle sores.

Image credit: troy mckaskle on Flickr

Lonely Planet reported that many donkeys work "seven days a week without shelter, rest or water."

These revelations do not come as a surprise. In recent years, the maltreatment of elephants for the purposes of tourism has become widely criticised. 

Of course, the use of donkeys as a mode of transport has been practised for centuries on hilly islands like Santorini. However, according to Lonely Planet, there has been a greater demand for donkey rides due to an increase in the number of tourists on the island in recent years, a result of more cruise ships visiting  and the greater availability of cheap package holidays.

With the increased demand for donkey taxi services, the mammals must endure longer working hours and heavier loads, to the detriment of their wellbeing.

Maultiere zum Personentransport, Oia, Santorini

Image credit: Bgabel on Wikimedia Commons 

UK charity The Donkey Sanctuary hopes to raise awareness about the poor treatment of Santorini's donkeys, urging tourists not to partake in donkey rides.

Their campaign In Their Hooves encourages riders to consider the mental and physical wellbeing of the donkeys before they take a seat in the saddle.

In Their Hooves on YouTube

Of course, The Donkey Sanctuary does not want to detract from the businesses that locals living on the island rely on. The charity hopes to "set out policies that will improve the welfare of donkeys and mules, while safeguarding the livelihoods of their owners and traditional Greek culture."

Their video explains how "donkeys avoid showing distress, meaning it isn't always easy to see they are suffering."

It encourages tourists to make an informed decision by asking donkey handlers whether donkeys have access to fresh water, shelter from the sun and the rain when they are resting and considering whether the owner might be physically mistreating the animal.

The best way to judge is to observe the appearance of the donkey. If the donkey has sores and injuries, it is most likely forced to carry an unsuitable weight.

"If you have doubts about any of these questions and still use a donkey then you could be contributing to the animal’s suffering," says the charity.

Next time you visit Santorini, put yourself in their hooves and use the checklist.

Image credit: troy mckaskle on Flickr


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