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Monday, 14 February 2011

Visit to see horses and camels at Nazlet Al Saman (Pyramids)

NOTE: This is a personal note based on my own observations. I am not a vet. This is not any kind of report - vets for different charities are writing these.

PERSONAL SUMMARY: The situation is not as dire as you may believe from the internet (which is not to say there aren't problems, because there are - there have been ongoing concerns about the condition of many of the animals there which long predate the current political situation). Donations are needed for ongoing medical treatment and food for the poorer folk. The charities are hoping to work there on an ongoing daily/near daily basis for the next 3-4 months. If tourism does not begin to pick up then things could deteriorate.

(UPDATE 14/2: I have now seen the vet's report for the day and it does say that he was informed by a local person that the number of horses dying had increased from starvation. There are also concerns about the nutritional content of the food at this time which is laying the animals open to catching other illnesses).


Following the furore on the internet in the past couple of days over the plight of the horses and donkeys (but strangely not the camels!) at the village of Nazlet al Saman at the foot of the Pyramids, I went along today to see for myself.

I went to the ESAF /Brooke Hospital station outside Ramsis Stables. Got there around 10am - they were already in full swing. I took over from one of the vets recording the animals being treated (owner, diagnosis, treatment) and did that for about 3 hours.

The Brooke people treated horses and the ESAF people treated the camels and also some horses and a donkey. The Donkey Sanctuary is treating donkeys elsewhere in the vicinity. I understand that the ESMA charity is also working in the area.

By around 1pm, about 400 animals (I think all street animals) were treated at that station, mainly horses and camels, and mainly for mange, worms and lameness.

One person went up to visit the graveyard - subject of many photos on the net in the past 2 days - and another person I met later in the day by accident and nothing to do with the 'situation' said that anyone who rides regularly in that area knows that this is the horses' graveyard. Basically, if a horse dies - and one of the stable owners told us there are around 7000 horses living in that area so there are naturally deaths - it is left out in that area for nature to take it's course, rather than removing and burying the carcasses.

A vet and another person also visited the place where the horses which have been pictured as starving were living. The owner said that there is some kind of sickness up there (predating the political situation) but they don't know what it is, but they were not starving the animals. The vet invited him to bring the horses down to the treatment station.

The green stuff which is the staple food of most of the horses seemed to be very available, and apparently costs something like 35-40LE per 100kg. I saw truck loads of it being brought in so it is available.

The ESAF/Brooke effort will be ongoing daily for the next 30 days at least, possibly longer.

After the station closed for the day, we sat down drinking tea and some of the stable owners and others were talking about how they can bring animal rights into the new political agenda. Some were expressing concern about how the furore on the internet had conveyed the wrong impression that all the animals were sick and dying of starvation. We discussed getting a journalist in to cover the situation properly allowing all their say. But we all know that when there is a 'party line' it can be hard to find someone willing to go against it. Hopefully, a journalist can be found willing to do a proper investigation.

They were also very angry at being blamed for sending the horses and camels up to the demonstrations last week and were clear that it was not anyone from that area.

I asked one of the stable owners if his stables were nearby could we go and look, so we all reconvened over at his stables. They are livery stables where foreigners keep their horses and I saw some magnificent horses in excellent condition.

The conversation continued, but we did raise the issues of how best to help the animals - tourists please come back! - but also how to raise the general condition of the street horses and camels which are not based in stables. These are all things the people are discussing.

We know things were far from perfect there before the political situation, and now may be the time to start sorting these things out.

From my personal visit and a discussion with the staff, if you want to make donations then I would recommend that you specify for them to be spent on medicines or medical treatments. I don't know, but I imagine the routine mange and worming treatments are relatively inexpensive, but there were animals who will need ongoing antibiotic and other treatments which may be a lot more expensive.

On another point, a friend was telling an Egyptian friend (middle-class, well-educated, professional) of hers what was happening up there to be met once more with the 'why bother with animals when people are starving' response so common here. There was little acknowledgment that the animals being treated were working animals and peoples' livelihoods depend upon them.

There is a major awareness-building an education effort needs to go on here with the general public.

I have no photos as I wasn't sure what the situation was, I didn't take my
camera-phone with me.

Charities working in the area:

Egyptian Society of Animal Friends

The Brooke Organisation (Note that Brooke are not able to apply your donation to a specific project unless it is substantial)

The Donkey Sanctuary

Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals

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