This month we carried out the first ever official health checks of the donkey taxis working on the Greek island of Santorini. Here, they carry tourists from the ferry port up 680 steps to the town of Fira each day and endure harsh working conditions, and often carry people weighing almost their own body weight.
On 23-24 May 2009, Paul Svendsen, our director of European operations, and a team including a vet, dentist, farrier and welfare officers provided health checks to 120 donkeys and mules. This is part of a new scheme we have introduced in co-operation with the Municipality of Fira, to ensure only donkeys considered fit enough can work.
Initially, the donkey owners were reluctant to bring their donkeys to our team or take off their donkeys packs, but they soon realised that we were there to help. We issued new harnessing to make life more comfortable for the donkeys and those who didn't pass the health check won't be allowed to work under the new scheme until the owners can prove their animal is fit to work once again.
So many other great things came out of the weekend. The President of Donkey Owners has agreed to ensure the donkeys receive water and shelter when they are not working and improve the system of loading/unloading passengers.
In the future, we will carry out these official health checks with the Municipality twice yearly and Konstantinos Tsikrikas, who runs our Greek Holding Base in Trikkala, has been appointed as our dedicated Welfare Officer for Santorini, and will be visiting on a monthly basis to provide advice and support to the taxi operators and monitor the well being of the donkeys.
We are also going to train six of the younger donkey owners in basic farriery and dentistry as there are currently no experts on the island.