Ban horse-drawn carriages: Activists

Ban horse-drawn carriages: Activists

Umut Erdem – ANKARA
Ban horse-drawn carriages: Activists

The rehabilitation and release of two dolphins from an aquarium to Turkish waters back in 2010 should stand as a model not only for how to treat other dolphins, but also for how to deal with horses used to pull carriages on Istanbul’s Princes’ Islands, said animal activists during a recent presentation at Parliament’s Animal Rights Research Commission.

The coordinator of nongovernmental organization Don’t Use Carriages, Horses are Dying Initiative (“Faytona Binme Atlar Ölüyor” in Turkish) told the commission that the number of coach horses who die on the Princes’ Islands every year doubled in the last four years.

“The coachmen are taking the injured horses and taking them to high levels of the islands, leaving them to die,” said Elif Ertürk Narin.

An activist with NGO Freedom for Dolphins Platform (“Yunuslara Özgürlük Platformu” in Turkish), on the other hand, presented information about the situation of dolphins confined inside Turkish aquariums, saying dolphins at these entertainment parks have to be given antidepressants. The captive dolphins are developing behavioral disorders, said activist Öykü Yağcı Tonay during her presentation.

“They have very high levels of stress and are damaged to a serious extent psychologically,” she said.

Animal rights activists have long been drawing attention to the poor conditions of the coach horses traditionally used for transportation on the four main inhabited islands off Istanbul. Many groups have denounced negligence and abuse of the horses, particularly in the summer season when the islands become an attraction for locals and tourists alike.

The horses are usually kept in restricted and unsanitary places during the summer, while abandoned to their own fate in the high parts of the islands during the winter.

“A majority of the coaches in Turkey are on the islands off Istanbul [Princes’ Islands]. We see them being forced into work on the asphalt, which is not at all appropriate for their nature and on very high hills to die in the cold in the winter cold and in the hot in the summer,” said Nar-in during her presentation.

There are 275 coaches registered at the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Directorate of Transport Coordination (UKOME), and about 1,200 coach horses live on the Princes’ Islands, said Narin. Yet, there is no facility on the islands that provides health services for these horses, she said.

“While the number of horses that died in 2015 was 400 [due to accidents or squalid conditions], this number doubled when we come to 2019, only on the islands…We want the [horse-drawn] coaches to be [banned] as soon as possible. We have a new solution for the islands, which is also environmentally friendly: electric coaches. And we want the coachmen to be banned immediately. We want all the horses that are made to work here to be retired. And we want the retired horses to be accommodated at safe centers,” she said. 

Freedom for Dolphins Platform representative Tonay shared the story of two dolphins rescued from a dolphin park in the district of Fethiye in the Aegean province of Muğla. He said that the release of the two dolphins offers important lessons for future dolphin-freeing projects.

“[Dolphins named] Tom and Misha are our hopes. They were two of the dolphins caught in Turkish waters. [The U.K-based foundation] Born Free established a serious fund, rehabilitated them and then released them into the seas. Tom and Misha are a very good example for us,” Tonay said.

The two dolphins went through extensive training to help them remember how to survive in the wild. They finally relearned how to hunt for themselves. After their release, Born Free is reportedly keeping track of the dolphins to ensure their long-term wellbeing. They are reported to be thriving in the wild waters of the Mediterranean Sea and beyond.

“Dolphins cannot reproduce in captivity due to stress. They are exposed to illnesses due to stress. They are given ulcer medicine, tranquilizers and antidepressants,” said Tonay.

“Although dolphin hunting is illegal, we receive information that dolphin park administrators are engaged in illegal dolphin hunting and are in cooperation with some fishermen...Although it is illegal, despite the international conventions, 23 dolphins have been caught in Turkish waters,” said Tonay.

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