Association and sector group ready to battle over donkeys on Aegean island
IZMIR - Anadolu Agency
Donkeys on the island are under the protection of a German animal association. AA photoGerman animal rights association and local tourism officials in Çeşme are increasingly braying at each other as they attempt to stake out territory in the battle for an İzmir island that is home to donkeys.
The local Turkish branch of Pro Animale has erected an electrified fence on Donkey Island to protect its eponymous inhabitants from mistreatment, but their conservation efforts have irritated local tourism representatives, who want to open the island to tourism with projects that would include greater interaction between people and donkeys.
“We have difficulty in protecting these animals even in an environment away from people. The island is too big and it not possible to control animals if [the place] is opened to tourism. We have not examined the project yet and don’t know about the measures for animal protection. But we are worried that animals will be mistreated again,” said Pro Animale Turkey representative Nilgün Varoş, expressing worries that the tourism projects would spoil the island’s natural beauty.
Pro Animale developed a conservation project in collaboration with the Forestry and Environment Ministry due to reports that people were mistreating the donkeys, who are kept on the island by locals during the summer months, that they were being slaughtered by butchers and that some were dying from starvation.
With the ministry’s blessing, Pro Animale installed hovels, desalinization plants and solar- and wind-power generators to help the animals.
As part of the project, mountain goats and rabbits have also been taken under protection, in addition to 40 donkeys, against mistreatment, Varoş said.
The association erected low-voltage electric fences as other types of fences were not permitted because the island is in a protected zone.
“This is completely under the inspection of the ministry and the goal is to prevent animals from suffering from torture. We have taken measures against cruel people’s mistreatment toward donkeys. The donkeys are checked by a veterinary once a month; even their nails are checked. All donkeys have been neutered. We also take in abandoned donkeys from the regions around the island. Donkeys eat approximately 360 bales of grass a month, and [that number] increases in winter months. All expenses are met by the association,” Varoş said.
Despite the measures, the donkeys continue to fuel tourism in the region, as visitors can continue to feed the animals through the fence. Nonetheless, Varoş said some people continued to throw stones at the donkeys behind the fences.
Opening island to tourism
Tourism representatives, however, have criticized the measures. “We have written a letter to the governor’s office for the animals to be set free. The beach on the island is already neglected. Our project foresees the establishment of shelters on the island. We have plans to create an environment where people will be able to love, touch and feed the animals. We also want to bring different species of donkeys to the island,” said Çeşme Touristic Hoteliers and Association (ÇEŞTOB) Deputy Chairman Yakup Demir.
Sector representatives want to build a port in the southern part of the island for boats, beaches for daily visitors, cafes and shelters for animals.
“Many tourists used to come to the town to see and feed the donkeys but the changes made on the island for the animals has resulted in a big decrease in tourist numbers,” Demir said.
The ÇEŞTOB chair also said they wanted to develop the project in collaboration with Pro Animale but had been unable to reach the correct representatives from the association.