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FOUR PAWS launches aid project for working donkeys and horses in Petra

Donkeys have to transport visitors on their back.
© PAF | FOUR PAWS | Tibor Rauch

Donkeys and horses suffering due to the tourist industry in Petra

Petra, also known as the Rose City due to the colour of the stone from which it is carved, is one of the most famous and beautiful landmarks in the Middle East, renowned worldwide for its unique rock-cut architecture. Every year thousands of tourists flock to the ancient city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and was elected one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007.


Vital to this tourist industry are, the 1350 donkeys and horses working in the region. Used for transporting visitors on their backs or in carriages, the horses and donkeys are kept in poor conditions and are forced to carry or pull weights that are often far too heavy in relation to the size of the animals. The working days are far too long and many of the animals also have no shade from the sun, as well as insufficient regular fodder and water, quiet places in which to rest and retreat. The animals also have limited access to veterinary care and suffer from exhaustion, lameness and colic.

New project for the improvement of the health and working conditions of horses and donkeys
© PAF | FOUR PAWS | Tibor Rauch

New FOUR PAWS project

That is why  the international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS, together with the Jordanian Princess Alia Foundation (PAF) and the Petra tourist board (Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority – PDTRA) – has drawn up a project for the improvement of the health and working conditions of horses and donkeys in Petra. Together they will apply several measures to improve the situation for the working animals, and will finance the entire project.


“We’re constructing stalls and water drainage systems, and we’re modernising an existing veterinary clinic,” explains Robert Hengl, project leader at FOUR PAWS. “We’re also providing medicine, medical equipment, and training for the local vets, blacksmiths and animal owners.”

Our team takes care of mares like Alebayah.
© PAF | FOUR PAWS | Tibor Rauch

FOUR PAWS vet team helps animals in Petra

Together with two vets from the local horse clinic, a FOUR PAWS team is currently in Petra Park administering first aid to injured and sick horses and donkeys. Most of the animals are suffering from painful injuries or infections on their legs, partly caused by galloping too quickly on hard and stony ground.


Six-year-old mare Alebayah is a typical example. For months she has had a wound on her left hind knee that refuses to heal. FOUR PAWS vet and horse expert Ovidiu Rosu took a sample of fluid from the knee and sent it to a laboratory to analyse the type of bacteria causing the infection. “As soon as we’ve identified the bacteria, we’ll know which antibiotic to give Alebayah,” explains Rosu. “She mustn’t work for a few weeks, and needs to rest a lot. I’m optimistic that, with the right treatment, she’ll be well again soon.” Many of the owners are more than happy to take up the offer of free treatment for their animals, and are very pleased that FOUR PAWS is there.

New stall for donkeys and horses
© PAF | FOUR PAWS | Tibor Rauch

New stalls set to be ready in early summer

The new stalls will be ready in early summer. Then all the working horses and donkeys will have enough fresh water to drink, they can be washed down, and can take a break in the shade. Over the next few years, staff from FOUR PAWS and the Princess Alia Foundation will provide regular veterinary treatment, and training for the owners. “We want to work together with the animals’ keepers to let the horses and donkeys lead a healthier life,” says Hengl. “Keepers who really know their animals and their needs can look after them properly and act promptly in the case of, health problems or other issues.”


By helping these animals, FOUR PAWS is also helping the local people. Horses and donkeys provide a livelihood for people in the region. A single animal provides enough income to feed up to six people, equating to around 8000 people in and around Petra that are dependent on their horses and donkeys.

FOUR PAWS and the Princess Alia Foundation

For several years, FOUR PAWS has been successfully collaborating with the Princess Alia Foundation, which was founded by Princess Alia Al Hussein in 2009. The two organisations have worked together on several projects to help strays in Jordan, and are currently collaborating on the construction of a refuge centre for wild animals in northern Jordan, ‘Al Ma’wa for Nature and Wildlife’. The shelter will soon provide a beautiful home to big cats and other wild animals from poor keeping conditions or the illegal animal trade.