- A new campaign in Santorini, Greece is asking tourists to think twice before riding donkeys.
- The donkeys have traditionally been a popular way for the 17,000 people who arrive off cruise ships into Fira port each day to get up the 600-step cliffside.
- However, the animals are sustaining more spinal injuries, saddle sores, and exhaustion than ever before.
- Recent legislation also made it illegal for overweight tourists to ride the donkeys.
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A new campaign in Santorini is asking tourists to think twice about riding a donkey up the iconic 600-step cliffside in the town of Fira, the island’s capital.
In collaboration with the cruise-line industry, activists with the “In Their Hooves” campaign are trying to “sensitise travellers to the stress placed on the animals when compelled to make the vertiginous climb with perilously heavy human cargo,”according to The Guardian.
The campaign comes as the donkeys on the picturesque island are sustaining more spinal injuries, saddle sores, and exhaustion than ever before.
The island’s mayor, Nikos Zorzos, told The Guardian: “The campaign is about to start. Representatives from the cruise liner association were here in my office this week promising to raise awareness [of the problem] and from our side we’ll be distributing information leaflets.
“Our mules and donkeys are part of our tradition. Younger owners, especially, have understood that they need to be looked after.”
Recently, legislation made it illegal for owners of the donkeys to allow animals to be ridden by any load exceeding 100kg (220 lbs), or one-fifth of the donkey’s weight, according to The Guardian – which basically means overweight tourists have been banned from riding the donkeys.
A cable car was also installed to help the 17,000 tourists that arrive off ships onto the island every day travel up the cliff.
The moves came as reports of abuse and neglect made their way to social media and 108,000 people signed an online petition last summer attempting to stop the “mindless and unnecessary torture [of equines] used as cruel transportation for people who want the ‘real Greek’ experience.'”
Council spokesperson Evangelia Konsta told The Guardian: “Cruise passengers basically have three ways of ascension. They can go by foot, cable car, donkey, or mule.
“When there are thousands arriving every day, and no more than five cable car cabins with the space for six people at most, the choice is limited to two options. In the heat, not everyone is so keen on the first.”
However, the idea of the new campaign is that tourists have a responsibility to make the decision themselves.
Catherine Rice, PR officer at The Donkey Sanctuary, which launched the initiative, told The Guardian: “Our ‘In Their Hooves’ campaign aims to encourage tourists to stop and think before using donkey taxis to climb the steep steps at Fira port.
“It suggests holidaymakers consider whether donkeys and mules are being treated humanely, have enough shade and water, as well as whether loads they are being asked to carry are suitable. If not, other options, such as walking or taking a cable car, might be a more responsible mode of transport.”
Maria Deligianni, a representative for the Cruise Lines International Association, added: “Asking our guests to put themselves ‘In their Hooves’ is an important part of our destination sustainability plan for the island.”
“The Santorini donkeys are one of the iconic features of the island and we are joining with the Donkey Sanctuary to urge guests to use their services responsibly.”
Cruise liners have also agreed to limit the number of people allowed to come ashore each day as part of their efforts.
“The measure will really begin being enforced this year when no more than 8,000 people, spaced out during the course of a day, are permitted to come ashore,” mayor Zorzos said.
“Over-tourism is a problem … We’ve taken concrete steps to improve the welfare of donkeys and now with this campaign and the reduction in cruise passengers I am beginning to feel optimistic.”
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