LAGUNA QUILOTOA, ECUADOR – COMMENT: There is a petition on the change.org website, which I can’t find despite using their search engine, which has been signed by more than 83,000 people by last night and which requests that the donkeys and horses be relieved of their duties carrying heavy tourists to this volcanic lagoon because it is a clear case of animal abuse and, in any case, there is a viable alternative yet to be constructed in a primitive cable car system which is common in the Andes and called tarabitas. Alternatively, it is not beyond the bounds of practicality for tourist to walk up to the lake. It would take about 45 minutes despite the high altitude, it is said.
Apparently, the view of the lagoon from the crater’s edge is breathtaking as the water has emerald and turquoise hues. It has captured the imagination of explorers visiting the Andes. But despite its beauty there is an ugly side to this tourist attraction which is the abuse of donkeys and horses forced to carry overweight tourists.
The petition has been organised by Andrea Garcés. He wants the Ecuador Ministry of Tourism to stop what he called the “torture” of the animals as they struggle up and down this rocky and steep incline daily without rest. He says that they are beaten and exploited while they navigate an “extremely long and steep slope” to the lagoon. He describes the animals being subjected to “animal abuse and slavery.”
He claims that it paints a poor picture of Ecuadorian tourism. He suggests “other means, such as a cable car, which corresponds to the adventure tourism that we want to represent as a country.”
The lake is 250 m deep and 3 km wide. It was formed when the volcano erupted more than eight centres ago and then collapsed.
There are those that argue against the petition because it would remove employment from poor Ecuadorians. One such person is Luis Espinosa Goded, a professor of economics at the Universidad San Francisco de Quinto. He said that the campaigners should “ask the people who make a living taking tourists with these donkeys how they live, how they take care of the donkeys, what they would do if their livelihood is prohibited”.
Others have followed suit describing a ban on donkeys and horses as crazy because it would take away these livelihoods where there is no other income. Tourists represent a source of income and the donkeys are the means. It depends on how the donkeys are employed. If they are abused there is no place for it. Either the owners improve donkey welfare or they lose their work. That would be my decision.
The Donkey Sanctuary in the UK has a video on how to be a responsible tourist which you can see below.