Working conditions for donkeys and mules on the Greek island of Santorini are being improved, thanks to a collaboration between taxi owners, and assistance from an international charity.
The Donkey Sanctuary has been working with the Santorini Municipality, the Equine Taxi Association and other key stakeholders to bring about sustainable change on the island. This includes improving welfare conditions for donkeys and mules engaged in rubbish collection, island trekking and transporting tourists up to the main town from the port.
In the latest initiative, donkey and mule taxi owners have come together to pay for repairs to damaged steps as well as shelters on routes the animals use to carry tourists from one of Santorini’s ports up to the town.
Thira Equine Taxi Union president Yannis Xagoraris said taxi owners were frustrated with the slow progress made by the municipality to improve working conditions for their donkeys and mules. “So, our members got together and paid for repairs to the lower steps ourselves to make the work easier for our donkeys and mules.
“We are very committed to the protection of our animals, ensuring they have access to adequate food, good shelter and in general all the care they need. Our mules and donkeys are part of our lives, our family and part of our daily routine – in short, we love them!”
He said work had been hampered by municipal elections, which took place in Greece earlier this year, with spending restrictions imposed on the Mayor and his departments. “Going forward we are committed to working with the new Mayor, Mr Antonis Sigalas, and his municipality to make even more substantial changes to improve the working conditions for our equines,” Xagoraris said.
The Donkey Sanctuary Programme Manager Kate Ferguson said the charity had made several visits to the island over the past year and assessed the health and welfare of the working mules and donkeys.
“With over 90% assessed as having good health, we are reassured the health of the animals is not the main issue. The challenges we have identified are around the working conditions and we will continue to work with all parties involved to create lasting change to support the health and welfare of the working donkeys and mules in Santorini,” Ferguson said.
In Greece, donkeys and mules are an intrinsic part of the tourism industry, providing families and communities with an opportunity to create a sustainable livelihood. Animal welfare remains key and must be a priority.
The Donkey Sanctuary does not actively promote the use of donkeys and mules in tourism but recognises that donkeys and mules form an important part of the social, cultural heritage and economic foundations of many countries.