Felipe Macaira and friend.
Representatives from the Antequera-based ‘El Refugio del Burrito’, are to hold a seminar in Mijas Pueblo next month for all those who work with the village’s famous ‘donkey taxis’, which have become a symbol of the municipality and one of its most popular tourist attractions.
Ahead of the forthcoming event, which is compulsory for all ‘donkey taxi’ handlers, the Sanctuary’s Felipe Macaira talks to SUR in English about the purpose of the course and the work of the charitable organisation.
What will November’s event in Mijas involve? What information is to be shared?
The main objective of the course is to provide basic donkey care information in order to ensure the animals’ welfare so that they are fit and healthy enough to carry out the donkey taxi service. We will focus on dietary requirements, symptoms of ill health, hoof care, and maximum weight loads that they should be carrying.
Is this seminar only aimed at those in the donkey taxi business?
The course is primarily directed towards the owners of the donkey taxis and their employees. But also it is for the authorities too, specifically the Local Police, who are the ones charged with ensuring that the owners are fulfilling all their obligations.
Why are you holding this now?
The decision to organise this seminar now was all to do with the availability of the owners and receiving the support of the Town Hall.
The event is obligatory for donkey taxi handlers in Mijas, so it can be assumed that the Town Hall is fully supporting the initiative?
Yes, the Town Hall has made it mandatory for all donkey taxi owners and their staff to attend.
The ‘Refugio’ and the Town Hall are going to sign a collaboration agreement that will see us and the council work more closely to improve the wellbeing of the Mijas donkeys. Together, we will then develop some information boards explaining this collaboration and provide information on the measures that are being taken to address some of the main complaints that the Sanctuary and the Town Hall receive with regards to the municipality’s donkey taxi service. As the image of the donkey taxi service improves, so does that of the Mijas.
In your opinion, should the donkey taxi service in Mijas be banned?
If the final decision on this issue were down to ‘El Refugio del Burrito’ it would end right now. We don’t understand how in the 21st century this type of activity can be tolerated when Mijas could attract tourists without using donkeys. Indeed, the roles could be reversed with the owner of the donkeys buying bicycles and trailers [rickshaws] like they have in China, and taking tourists on a guided tour of the village this way. As such, Mijas could wipe out any criticisms about animal mistreatment.
Tell us more about ‘El Refugio’.
‘El Refugio del Burrito’ is the first European subsidiary of The Donkey Sanctuary, a completely self-funded, donation-reliant British organisation.
‘El Refugio del Burrito’ has helped in one way or another more than 500 animals and directly looks after more than 200.
An unexpected inheritance
‘El Refugio del Burrito’ was founded by Elisabeth Svenden who became famous in the 1970s for founding The Donkey Sanctuary in Britain after her lawyer called her out of the blue in 1972 to tell her she had inherited 207 donkeys! On receiving this unexpected news, she and her husband sold their hotel and established the Sanctuary, which to date has rescued more than 300,000 donkeys worldwide.