Monday, 8 June 2015

GAWF/Animal Action's Equine Team in Paros - by Mary Price

Mary Price is one of the people on Paros who helps us to plan and organise our outreach visits there.  Both Mary and Marielli help us a great deal by spotting equines in need and contacting their owners to ask whether they would be willing for our team to treat their animals and teach them about improving welfare, which makes our visits even more worthwhile. We thank Mary, who is a journalist, for this contribution.

Two workshops on equine welfare were the highlight of the 2015 GAWF visit to the island of Paros in the Greek Cyclades.
School children feeding a donkey
On the opening of their three day stay Vet Elisa Geskou and Farrier Aris Vlachakis  were joined by 3rd,4th and 6th grade children from Kostos’ Primary School for a workshop on donkey welfare.   This was a unique experience for everybody.
Teaching children about donkey welfare
They watched in fascinated silence as donkeys had their teeth examined and treated. As she worked, Elisa explained that, like people, donkeys need tooth care. ‘If teeth are too sharp or have hooks it makes it difficult for a donkey to eat’ she told the children.  ‘And if they cannot eat they die slowly and painfully from starvation’.
School children watching and learning
‘It’s the same with feet’ added Aris, donkeys need their feet cleaned and if their nails are too long they have to be trimmed. Otherwise it is hard for them to walk’. Heads nodded sagely, this was all new information.

 The lesson went on for the best part of an hour and the team took the opportunity to explain that donkeys can live for 40 years and during that time need food, water, shelter from heat, cold and rain and above all they should not be hobbled.
An example of hobbling

‘No hobbling’ agreed the children, it is not legal in Greece’  ‘I’m surprised they said this’ observed Elisa, ‘because almost every animal on this island is hobbled - often with disastrous consequences.’  She added ‘maybe with more work the new generation will change this practice. ‘But,’ she pointed out, ‘it is always slow to change old ways.’
A common injury from hobbling
On day two in their drive to encourage people to change the island tradition of hobbling the GAWF team were joined for the second year by Nick Turck from FARMCARE UK (
Over the last year GAWF and Farmcare have worked together to find the most effective ways to demonstrate the benefits of electric fencing to the rural community of Paros.  Farmcare has generously volunteered funds, time and effort to work with GAWF to develop a strategy for managing electric fencing in a way which is suitable for the conditions which are particular to farming on Paros.
Elisa and Nick demonstrating safe use of fencing as an alternative to hobbling
Cost and the danger of fire caused by sparks from the fencing in the hot dry summers were two of the major concerns for equine owners. Cost is minimal and is offset by the economic returns from the value of undamaged animals and simple management rules mitigate against fire - was the message from Nick Turck.
Elisa giving an educational presentation
Elisa researched the damage done to animal skeletal development, not to mention the high casualty rate which is caused by hobbling. To illustrate her findings she made a powerful presentation to those who joined the workshop. This generated a lot of questions and promises of action. It remains to be seen if change does take place but the knowledge was passed on and it was encouraging that the Paros Mayor Markos Kovaios came to observe a demonstration of the all round benefits of electric fencing in action.

 As Nick Turck pointed out ‘This year I think we have communicated everything about electric fencing. The local teams are now skilled in every aspect of it. Each visitor to the fencing workshop was given a set of comprehensive leaflets packed with information on where to find support and how to work on new ways of welfare management.
An elderly donkey receiving treatment
Guided by the tireless local organizer, Marielli Andreopoulou, and state vet Nikos Tsigonias, the GAWF team treated  46  donkeys, mules and horses during their visit. As well as routine treatment they had to deal with a series of casualties.  A donkey kept alive with a leg broken as a direct result of hobbling,  a series of  neglected donkeys all hobbled too tightly, a foal with a knee abscess, now happily treated, and a horse with a broken knee.
Educating a donkey owner

‘It’s  a normal tally’ said Elisa before adding ‘but the great thing is that now we are known on the island, people are coming to us. It’s taken five years, but people trust us here which is good. It means we are moving forward’.
Treating long feet
With that the team moved on to care for the equines on Naxos - an island which has embraced electric fencing but has its own challenges…

You can read a report about the team’s visit to Naxos here 
Aris trimming feet
More hobbling

Injecting a donkey
Feet before trimming
Feet after trimming

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