Jordan's famed tourist site improves the health of its working horses

New policies, stables and medical care protect animals from mistreatment or neglect

BOSTON, MASS., May 16, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- An historic collaborative project was launched in March of 2015 at an even more historic landmark: the renowned carved stone city of Petra in Jordan (the UNESCO World Heritage site made famous by Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade).

There, FOUR PAWS, the international animal welfare organization, the Princess Alia Foundation (PAF) and the Petra Development and Tourism Regional Authority (PDTRA) collaborated on a relief project to help the location's working horses.

1,350 horses and donkeys work in and around Petra. Every year they transport thousands of tourists – on their backs or in carriages – through the famous desert city, one of the Middle East's most beautiful locations. The unregulated loads they had to carry or pull were often far too heavy and their working days much too long. Many horses, donkeys and camels also lacked regular access to food, water, medical care, or shade from the sun. They often suffered from exhaustion, lameness, sores, colic and inadequate medical care.

This project, albeit only a few months old, has already produced positive results as the health of many animals have greatly improved. New stables have been built and a water-diversion system has been created to protect the site from flash floods. Since March 2015, experienced equine veterinarians from both FOUR PAWS and PAF, have visited Petra regularly to treat injured or sick animals, and to train local vets. Additionally, the tourism authority has issued new regulations that place strict controls on how horses are treated from now on.

The new regulation entitled, "Instruction on organizing horses' and camels' work in the ancient Petra nature reserve", should guarantee that horses are treated better from now on. Dr. Emad Hijazeen from the PDTRA explains, "The regulation requires owners to always carry food and water for the animals. It also specifies maximum carrying and pulling weights, and forbids owners to drive their animals to gallop. Violators are fined, and may have their operating licences withdrawn." The PDTRA also deploys rangers and tourism inspectors to assure compliance. FOUR PAWS, whose cooperation with PAF has meant a quicker implementation of this important regulation, applauds this new policy as it will make Petra a leading example of responsible tourism with the highest animal welfare standards possible.

In early March, Her Royal Highness Princess Alia Al Hussein of Jordan, founder of the Princess Alia Foundation, and Heli Dungler, founder and president of FOUR PAWS, visited Petra together to see the equine clinic and the new stables, which provide 18 horses with roomy individual stalls. Heli Dungler says, "In the stables, the horses have somewhere cool to rest, with bedding, fresh drinking water, and ample food. Here they can recover and regain their strength. I'm very happy that, with our two partners, we've been able to build these stables and give medical treatment to the horses. Along with the new regulations, this has allowed us to take the first steps to improving conditions for the horses working in Petra."

Over the next few months, FOUR PAWS and the Princess Alia Foundation wish to run further training sessions for horse owners, farriers and local vets. The project partners also hope to strengthen the rights of donkeys, to improve their working conditions as well. Princess Alia Al Hussein stated, "Our goal together is to act as an example of best practice in animal-friendly tourism for the entire region." Through projects and collaborations such as this one in Petra, FOUR PAWS aims to protect, rescue and improve the lives of animals around the globe.

For more information on FOUR PAWS, visit the website at

Petra project photo link: &p=bnerZ0KA © FOUR PAWS | Tibor Rauch
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