Hundreds of Jordanian owners of animal carriers for tourists, in the famous Petra, lost their main source of income, after tourism stopped for more than a year due to the “Covid-19” pandemic, and they are now unable to feed dozens of starving donkeys, mules and horses.
Abdul Rahman Ali, 15, is standing in a veterinary clinic near the rock-carved Pink City in southern Jordan, waiting to get free fodder for his donkey, as he can hardly feed them with the cessation of tourism in the ancient city (230 km south of Amman).
“Before (Corona) no one was without work, the Bedouins in Petra used to get money and feed their animals,” the cheerful brown boy, who wore a blue shirt, olive pants and a blue hat, told AFP. But with (Corona) we are forced to come to this clinic to get free feed and treatment.”
The clinic, which was established by the American non-profit organization PETA in the village of Umm Sayhoun near Petra, includes a stable for sleeping horses, donkeys and mules that need care.
In November 2019, Petra celebrated its one million visitor in a year, while the number of visitors to Petra decreased in 2020 to a quarter of a million, due to the restrictions imposed to contain the “Covid-19” crisis and the repercussions of the epidemic on the economy.
Between 150 and 200 tourists visit the city per day, compared to more than 3,000 in 2019, according to the head of the Petra Regional Authority, Suleiman Al-Farajat.
He added, “About 80% of the population of Petra (35 thousand) before the pandemic depended directly or indirectly on tourism as a stable source of income for them, and this income stopped with the cessation of tourism.”
There are about 200 tourist guides from Petra, and about 4,000 people benefit from transporting tourists by 700 to 800 donkeys, mules, camels and horses.
“In the good days, I used to get between 100 and 200 dinars per day (140 to 280 dollars), while on the weak days, 20 dinars (28 dollars) was barely enough to buy barley,” Abdul Rahman says.
“It is not only the owners of animals who have been affected, but also the owners of hotels, restaurants and oriental antiques stores, where hundreds of employees have lost their jobs,” says Farajat.
The Corona pandemic hit the Jordanian tourism sector, which was contributing between 12 and 14 percent of the gross domestic product, and tourism income decreased from $5.8 billion in 2019 to one billion in 2020, according to official figures.
At the clinic’s large iron door, Mohammed Al-Badol (23 years) also stood with his donkey, dressed in a brown Arab dress, a military jacket and a black cap. He says, “Before (Corona), my family and I had seven donkeys and we work in Petra…Now we only have one donkey that I can barely feed.”
He points out that his family has seven members, and he and his three brothers work and they are younger than him.
The Beta clinic provides care for working animals, especially those suffering from poor health conditions as a result of malnutrition.
“People here depend on their animals to work in tourism, and with it stopping they lost their source of income, they no longer have the ability to care and feed them,” says Egyptian horse surgeon Hassan Shata, who runs the clinic, which opened in January 2020.
Shata explains that “about eight months ago, we began to see many cases of malnutrition, and very skinny donkeys and horses… This prompted us to launch a feeding program to support donkeys, horses, camels and mules.”
The clinic, which is currently the only operating and free of charge, receives between 10 and 15 cases per day, according to Shata.
He points out that the program “rescued about 250 animals during the period of suspension of tourism, because people do not have the financial ability to feed or treat their animals.”
Shata recounts: “While examining a wound in the leg of a gray mare called (Salwa), the program was able to follow up on cases that were suffering as a result of starvation and were brought to the clinic, and given food, water and the necessary treatment, and she recovered.”
In addition to malnutrition, the clinic treats saddle injuries, falls or abuse.
Al-Farajat confirms that there is a project to replace the living quarters with electric cars.
He talks about a project to operate 20 electric cars by July 1 in Petra, to benefit the life-saving people. Some of them will be hired to drive those cars. Eight dinars ($11) will be deducted from the value of the tourist entry ticket, which amounts to 50 dinars (70 dollars) for the dead.
In 2019, the value of entry tickets to Petra exceeded 50 million dinars ($70 million).
Abdul Rahman Ali: “In the good days I used to get 140 to 280 dollars a day, but now 28 dollars is barely enough to buy barley.”
• Operating 20 electric cars next month to transport tourists.
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