Wednesday, March 2, 2011

ESMA Press Release II

The bond between a horse and rider is a difficult bond to describe. Horse lovers will tell you that to know a horse is to know love. A horse's eye holds a million stories, with a quiet intelligence that signals you are dealing with an animal that has heart, intelligence, and emotions.

Horses are found throughout the world, either as human companions or as work animals. Egypt is no different. One of the many delights that tourists found during their Arabian adventure was an opportunity to ride a horse or camel up to the Great Pyramids. It's an experience that many will treasure as a highlight of their travels throughout the country; witnessing one of the ancient wonders of the world on the back of animals who have helped elevate our societies and culture.

The recent unrest in Egypt devastated the tourism industry. While Egyptians struggle to return to their everyday lives, with few tourists returning the repercussions have spread far and wide. Many horse and stable owners that surround the area of the Great Pyramids have been faced with very grave decisions to make. Stable owners rely on the tourism market as their primary source of income. No tourists equals no money to put bread on the table, let alone feed in a horse's or donkey's stall.

The Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals (ESMA sent out a team of volunteers to asses the situation themselves. Their first day out in the area, ESMA volunteers spread the word that they would be providing feed for grossly malnourished horses. Using one stable as a base from which to work, ESMA volunteers were unable to anticipate the volume of people that began showing up.

ESMA had brought with them a combination of grain, bran, maize and chaff for the horses. All the food was carefully overseen by a veterinary nurse with many years of experience dealing with equines, as grossly malnourished horses have exceptionally sensitive stomachs. The rule was one bucket of food for the horses most in need. Feed was given to extreme cases to keep their horses alive for another two days. From their first day out in the field, dedicated volunteers have returned day after day to continue handing out feed to the direst cases. ESMA hopes to raise enough in donations to be able to return and bring more horses food. They are struggling greatly at the moment.

ESMA's most recent update on the situation indicates that more and more people are hearing of the program to help the animals. Last week in one day alone, ESMA volunteers witnessed over 600 horses lined up waiting for food. Estimates put the total number of horses in the area directly around the pyramids at 3000 alone - this is not including other areas in Cairo that are also witnessing mass starvation of their animals. ESMA volunteers now hand out ten kilograms of mixed feed per horse every Sunday, finances permitting.  

Along with no food for the animals, veterinary care has also been absent. Stable owners brought horses to ESMA with open wounds on their back, obviously infected. When asked why they had not had these wounds treated by the government appointed vet assigned to each district in Cairo, their response was simple. The vet is meant to give subsidized medication for stable owners in Giza; vet checks are meant to be free of charge. Instead, the vet charges extortionate prices on medicine and veterinary check-ups, so much so that many of the stable owners are simple unable to cover the costs of getting their horses checked out.

One stable owner told his story, commenting on the loss of his animals. He said that this week alone, he "has lost five horses." His horses are normally fed three times a day; yet he has been unable to feed his animals for many days now. An ESMA volunteer commented on the horse "graveyard" they witnessed: "There were at least 50 carcasses, most of them in 'the bloated stage' and Beth informed me those were the ones that had died most recently.  We also found the carcasses of 3 camels, which we knew later from the owners had 'starved to death'.  The most distressing of all the dead animals were the dead foals lying next to their mothers..."

This terrible situation that stable owners are facing is not likely to end until the tourism market in Egypt picks up again. This could take months. These animals do not have that kind of time.

This is a call for help. This is our chance to help save the life of an animal, at least to ensure that it will be fed for one more day.

About the Author
Susan Richards-Benson is a journalist who has been living and working in Egypt for the past five years. An avid horse lover, Susan has actively campaigned for the rights of animals in Egypt. She has been volunteering with ESMA since 2010. To see more, check out her blog at:

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