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Ethical tourism wins as eco-carts replace donkeys in Petra

Concern over the animals’ health and the condition of the ancient stone at Petra Archaeological Park mean eco-carts are replacing donkeys for a more ethical tourism approach, reports Carolynne Dear.

Ethical tourism wins as eco-carts replace donkeys

The Petra donkeys are off to pastures new.

The animal rights organisation PETA Asia has received backing from the Jordanian government to replace hard-working horses, donkeys and mules in Petra with eco-friendly electric vehicles.

In a landmark move, the Petra Development and Tourism Regional Authority will launch a fleet of ten electric carts to replace horse-drawn carriages that carry tourists around Petra Archaeological Park.

Following reports from visitors to the park, PETA carried out an investigation that revealed mules and donkeys were being made to climb 900 steps up to a monastery and back down again with tourists on their backs. Meanwhile, horses were pulling heavy cartloads of tourists around the park in blistering heat, multiple times a day.

The group initially launched a free clinic outside the park to treat animals who were suffering. So far, more than 3,000 have been treated by PETA’s vets. Many were displaying intentionally inflicted wounds, untreated lameness, colic, dietary deficiencies and exhaustion.

Along with the suffering the animals were undergoing, it was also noted that their hooves were destroying the temple’s ancient, fragile sandstone steps. Allowing the animals to continue walking over the steps would cause further deterioration.

PETA hopes that the move to electric vehicles will be the first of many such decisions to support the health and wellbeing of animals.

“Horses will no longer suffer having to pull heavy tourists around with the introduction of these game-changing vehicles, and we hope to see more developments like this,” said PETA senior vice president Jason Baker.

Baker noted that a similar decision to end horse rides at the pyramids at Giza in Egypt was made a year ago and that PETA hoped to work with officials in Jordan towards only animal-free transportation at Petra.

PETA is calling on tourists not to engage in rides that use animals and it is advocating for all animals to be removed from Petra Archaeological Park and replaced with mechanised vehicles.

What is Petra Archaeological Park?
Ethical tourism in Petra

Tourists flock to see the ancient ruins of Petra.

The ruins of ancient Petra stand on a plateau that rises out of Wadi Mousa, the Valley of Moses, in southwestern Jordan. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the world’s most famous archaeological locations.

Petra is half-built and half-carved into the surrounding rock and once lay at an important crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Syria-Phoenicia.

It boasts a vast extent of tomb and temple architecture, tunnels and diversion dams, and cisterns and reservoirs that conserved precious seasonal rains.

The archaeological remains date from prehistoric times to the mediaeval period.

This story was first published in the Summer 2022 issue of Asia Family Traveller magazine.

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