CAIRO: Carriages and carts fill the streets lining the pyramids in Giza, many idly waiting for tourists to take a picture or a ride. The steady decline of tourism revenues in Egypt has caused unemployment in the tourism sector, but has also put working animals out of commission.
There are thousands of animals working in tourism, mostly camels and horses, very little regulation exists. Owners say the decline in tourists to popular locations like Giza have made it very difficult to feed and care for the animals.
One of the goals of General Organization for Veterinary Services is to provide protection of livestock, and set up factories for animal products like meat and leather, which puts all the pressure of caring for horses in the tourism industry on charity organizations.
Feeding one horse costs at least 40 EGP, and animal owners cannot afford to pay more than 1200 EGP per month when days pass without one customer. A ride usually costs about 30 EGP.
Article 45 of the newly adopted Egyptian constitution says that the country is committed to protecting animal welfare, but until this article is applied and the state establishes the methods to activate it, a number of rescue organizations have decided to provide aid these animals. Such aid organizations particularly focus on horses near the Pyramids, as the current economic situation has taken a dire effect on their welfare.
The Egyptian Society of Animal Friends (ESAF) is one organization that has organized several feeding campaigns to assist malnourished horses, which they estimate to be 3,000 in the Giza region.
Ahmed el-Sherbiny, ESAF chairperson, told The Cairo Post, “the current feeding program is expected to last for six months, and it started last February.”
Sherbiny added that since the start of the current feeding program ESAF teams have organized at least five feeding trips every week and each trip feeds about 200 horses.
ESAF also has a mobile clinic near the shelter in Nazlet El-Semman, where they help treat horses five times a week. Ibrahim Mohamed Badawy, a Veterinary Surgeon in ESAF, told The Cairo Post, that each feeding trip costs at least 400 EGP (U.S. $57).
Badawy said there are at least 3,000 malnourished horses around the pyramids, and they have suffered from the drop in tourism revenues in the past three years following the 2011 revolution.
He added that a majority of horses suffer from malnourishment, anemia, or parasites, which causes them to be susceptible to falling ill. He added that many horses that visit the clinic are lame, have untreated wounds, or eye infections, and some cases require immediate or ongoing veterinary care.
This kind of care could cost hundreds of EGP in a private clinic which is impossible for poor horse owners to afford.
The Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad (SPANA) supports ESAF financially in its horse feeding trips.
SPANA is a British Organization that was founded in 1923, since then they have helped animals all over the world.
On their website they say “already poor owners are struggling more than ever to provide their animals with adequate food. Many carriage horses are on the brink of starvation on the city’s streets.”
Jeremy Hulme, SPANA’s chief executive, said “It’s heartbreaking that many of these horses are on the brink of starvation because their poor owners simply can’t afford to feed them without the income generated from tourism. We’re appealing for help to feed these forgotten victims of the crisis until political stability and tourism returns to Egypt.”
Badawy added that horse owners are thankful for the feeding program and the mobile clinic, adding that the situation is so drastic that many of them cannot afford to bury those that die and leave their bodies on main roads.
Badawy said that the steep slope leading to the pyramids sometimes causes horses to slip and break bones.
The current feeding program has three goals: feeding the animals, providing medical treatment, and raising the animal owners’ awareness about animal welfare.
Badawy explained that awareness is important because sometimes horse owners treat horses poorly, which could harm the animal.
The previous feeding program started in July 2013, and from that date until the end of November they have fed and treated 5,471 horses and 663 camels.
ESAF said they would continue organizing, treating and feeding trips to working animals around the pyramids, as long as they have enough funding.
They depend on donations which they sometimes receive from people and/or organizations like SPANA and Animal Aid Abroad (AAA), which was founded in August 2007 in Australia.
Former British Conservative Party politician Ann Widdecombe, who visited Egypt earlier this year and participated in ESAF feeding trips, said in Express newspaper on March 13 “No income means many families cannot afford to feed themselves let alone the animals and so now many are simply leaving their horses to starvation and death.”
She added “Animals such as the Egyptian horses are the innocent victims of man’s conflict with man but man still needs them. Tourism will not return overnight and when it does many who once relied on it will find themselves without the animals with which to start again.”