The imposing city of Petra carved into rock is Jordan's main tourist magnet and an attraction in the wider region. Due to the extensive site and temperatures of over 40 degrees centigrade, many tourists prefer to ride through the ruins on donkeys or horses. Around 1,350 donkeys and and horses are kept in Petra for this purpose. As we established during our first visit, conditions were not in accordance with animal welfare. We responded immediately and launched an aid project together with our partner organisation, the Princess Alia Foundation (PAF), and the Petra tourism authority (PDTRA) in order to help the working horses and donkeys as fast as possible.
Stables, veterinary treatment and education
In 2015, we started building stables for the horses, donkeys and mules in which they are protected from the sun and have a place to rest. We also installed a water drainage system to prevent the annual destruction of stable constructions through heavy rainfall. Alongside these urgently needed measures, we began to train the animals' owners jointly with our partners in appropriate hoof care, feeding and general equestrian care. In addition, a FOUR PAWS team flies to Petra at least once a year in order to provide veterinary treatment. Just one year later, we saw first positive results: all the animals were in a much better state of health.
Through generous donors in Jordan, several of the old carriages were replaced with new and much lighter ones. These carriages help to protect the health of the horses and donkeys, especially by easing their backs. Thanks to the support of the 'Robert Cave Memorial Fund' we were also able to distribute new harnesses that offer reliable protection from injury. Thanks also go to the PAF who helped with this initiative.
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Successful interventions for the equines in Petra, Jordan!
Together with the local vets at the equine clinic, Prof. Aburtabush (equine specialist), Dr. Abed (vet from the Royal Stables) and Dr. Zain (PAF) we managed to treat, rasp, de-worm and x-ray more than 50 horses within three days. Apart from that, Robert Hengl (Head of Competence Centre Horses at FOUR PAWS) and Dr Zain had a positive meeting with Dr. Suleiman Farajad, chief commissioner of the Petra Development Tourism and Region Authority (PDTRA). Points of discussion were short and long-term plans for the project.
Last but not least, in cooperation with the PDTRA, horse owners, local vets, and horse handlers were trained in an identification and tagging system based on the usage of microchips. They learnt where and how these are to be inserted, and how they are scanned and read properly. This common practice still has to be implemented in this region.
Update July 2020: After Petra park’s COVID-19 lockdown, help for working equines continues
At the beginning of 2020, our local partner’s the Princess Alia Foundation (PAF), the Petra tourism authority (PDTRA), and FOUR PAWS had big plans to continue the work we had started 5 years ago – to continue to improve the health and working conditions of the working horses, donkeys and mules in Petra park, Jordan.
It started promisingly with an intervention in February where we diagnosed several mares (pregnancy diagnosis), treated several horses who showed signs of lameness and colics. However, despite eight planned interventions in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns caused Jordan to close its borders and the seventh World Wonder to close its gates.
From one day to another the working horse, donkey and mule owners were left with no income and had to somehow survive. Obviously with no income not only did the families suffer but also the animals they had to take care of. Although the 'working load' was reduced due to the lack of tourists, some equines still needed attention in the form of medicine. Unfortunately, also the Equine clinic in Petra was closed, but we were in touch with local helpers who we knew could help. These helpers sent us pictures of horses that needed care but were not able to receive certain medication.
Even though our local partners, PAF, weren’t allowed to travel within Jordan, we decided to support several horses with medication and consumables so that they wouldn’t suffer – so two boxes of urgently needed medication were sent down to Petra park.
Finally, after several months of hardship, together with PAF and the PDTRA (tourism authority) we have decided to re-start the programme at the end of August 2020. The plan is to have vet checks on all equines that have various ailments or symptoms and to gather data on how the animals have fared in the last few months. Furthermore, we are planning to do pregnancy diagnosis and x-rays (if needed). Additionally, we have committed to checking the hooves and thus a farrier will accompany us to the site and will trim the hooves and shoe the animals if needed.
Apart from our work on-site we are strongly hoping for the promised club cars which were supposed to be delivered at the beginning of the year – they are to replace the horse carriages which were causing additional suffering of the animals. These are still on the agenda and are planned to be imported at the end of the year.
In any case, we thank you for your support, so that the good work on the ground can be continued – stay tuned for further updates!