“A Bray Will Save Us...”
Next to the Andalusian bull, celebrated icon of Hispanicity, represented and interpreted by writers and artists of all times, another animal falls into the collective imagination as an emblematic presence of a territory: the donkey. The humble and patient dedication, not separated by the innate wisdom, of this faithful companion of man through the entire course of his journey on the planet is opposed to the indomitable fierceness of the fighting bull.
The donkey is related from a remote time with the history of the Balearic Islands and therefore also with that of our Pitiusas. A particular recognition of great topicality has been given by the passion and work of an Italian visionary conservationist, sincere estimator and adoptive citizen of our Island. Giovanni Orlando from Milano, Italy:
What is the reason why an Italian became passionate about the reintroduction and promotion of the Balearic donkey race in the islands of Ibiza and Formentera?
I would define it as a fair expression of the spirit of globalization... in our little corner of the world. Personally, I came to Ibiza in the 80s and fell in love "at first sight" without stopping to come frequently, even staying permanently for longer or shorter periods. More than a simple Italian I have always felt myself as ”homo mediterraneus", perhaps helped by my roots in Magna Grecia.
What is the project?
The mission of the newly formed Associació Pitiusa Raça Asenca Balear, the “burrada” as it was baptized by a dear friend of mine, proposes the reintroduction of this ancient and very noble donkey race, in purity, in the Islands of Ibiza and Formentera, where it was once present in significant quantities.
Our belief is that for the success of protecting an endangered breed, we must take into consideration our knowledge and appreciation of the animal's nature. This calls for a perfect collaboration between conservation and the promotion of social activities that see the donkey as the center of attention.
The generous and constructive availability shown by some friends, that the forests of Santa Gertrudis could house the nascent sanctuary of our donkey, did the rest. All this to realize a dream: the return of the great Balearic donkey when it was gone.
As a non-profit Association, we always appreciate the participation of those who want to help us. Our work also depends on the generosity of our donors, any help is essential for us.
Can you present us the Balearic Donkey?
The Balearic donkey breed, formally Raça Asenca Balear, is an indigenous breed of the Balearic Islands that comes from the ancestral trunk of Equus asinus somaliensis, or Somali donkey, which later gave rise to donkeys in Southwest Asia and probably also the great part of European races, including the five black- coated breeds of the Iberian Peninsula: Balearic, Catalan, Encartaciones, Zamorano-Leonesa and the portuguese Mirandesa.
Its regressive process has been parallel to the loss of aptitude of this species from the middle of the 20th century, with the price crisis in the equine sector in the 1950s and subsequent decades, the mechanization of the countryside and the intense rural exodus from Spain in the 1960s and 1970s. The loss of racial purity was aggravated with the relative arrival of other foreign types, mainly donkeys from North Africa, which due to their smaller size and format had, at that time, a certain reception, replacing or crossing with those of the local type. All this implied that, at the end of the seventies, animals with a certain morphological
appearance of the local type did not reach even a hundred specimens.
The breed today is distributed in the Islands of Mallorca (80%) and Menorca (20%) and counted as of December 31, 2013, a census of 278 breeders animals distributed by 165 farms. The Official Catalog of Cattle Breeds of Spain includes it in the group of Native Breeds in Danger of Extinction, Number 39 of February 15, 2012 of the BOE.
Although in the past, the main source of revenue for donkeys involved mule production and work on the land, at present it tends to be more about ecological maintenance, as well as recreational in nature.
Thus, for example, we can mention the growing importance that they are acquiring as cleaning elements of the undergrowth, with the consequent repercussion in the prevention of possible forest fires, as a companion animal, as an element of social reintegration and of therapies for the disabled and, finally, and not least, as a fundamental ingredient of the country's cultural heritage and tourist support for the municipalities in the area.
And what is their character?
They are very rustic, noble animals and of great physical strength; smart, cautious, playful and interested in learning. Once they have earned your bond, they can be good companions in work and recreation.
The fame of this breed at the beginning of the last century was extraordinary and the demand for breeders was very high. As an example we can point out the great export of these animals to England and later to the United States where they participated in the creation of the famous “Kentucky” breed, known for its strength and size. All this connected to tradition, between history and legend, that wants the stallion Royal Gift, its remote ancestor, to reach the New World as a personal gift from the King of Spain Carlos III to the "Father of the Fatherland", General George Washington, who began selecting him on his Mount Vernon property in Virginia, as early as 1785.
As undergrowth cleaning elements?
The abandonment of agricultural activities related to the forest, the exodus of the rural population to the urban world and the outsourcing of the rural economy have caused the breakdown of the agroforestry balance. Currently the agroforestry ecosystem is left and impoverished, characterized by an increase in woody and scrub biomass. This accumulation of biomass in the understory constitutes a great source of fuel in the face of a forest fire. Forest cleaning and management are essential tasks in the fight against forest fires, but reducing the amount of forest biomass in the soil can have a high economic cost. An alternative is the burning of this biomass, but it has even higher costs, both economically and ecologically.
The Balearic Islands have suffered 69 forest fires until August 1, 2016, six more than last year at this time, which have burned 62.4 hectares, 2.3% less than in 2015. Mallorca is the island that it has suffered more accidents, with 42, followed by Ibiza, with 25, while Menorca and Formentera have each registered one.
We found it interesting, on the one hand, to frame the experimental phase of the project in a circumscribed insular context, strongly anthropized and therefore with a high risk of fire, particularly in summer, on the other hand, the testimonial presence of an equine indigenous breed, practically disappeared from the Island, convinced us that it could be the ideal setting. Almost all of the forest stands in Ibiza are seriously or extremely dangerous. Negligence and accidents continue to be the main cause of forest fires, accounting for 43% of the total.
Forest-urban interface areas are particularly dangerous and require careful and timely management. The presence of human settlements near uncultivated forests, on the one hand multiplies the possibility of fires, on the other makes the loss of human lives very likely.
As for the macro-phenomena that are among the causes of the great summer fires in the Mediterranean area, there is no doubt about the significant impact of climate change.
The gradual overheating of our planet, with the consequent formation of arid areas susceptible to ever larger and uncontrollable fires, is at the center of an alarming study recently carried out by researchers from the Italian CNR, in collaboration with those of the Universities of Barcelona , Lisbon and Irvine in California.
The unstoppable increase in drought, studied in relation to incendiary events, leads us to fear in the coming years a considerable increase in these calamities, especially in areas of Mediterranean Europe such as Spain, France and Italy, where ecosystems have adapted less to the increasing aridity of the last centuries.
Excuse me, what do donkeys have to do with the plague of forest fires?
Given the need to tackle the problem and given the high costs of manual clearing for undergrowth cleaning, the use of native cattle is proposed to regenerate pastures, reduce forest mass and generate discontinuities in it with the idea of limit the effects of possible fires on the Island.
In this way, a double objective is achieved, on the one hand to contribute to the recovery of native breeds and on the other to face the problem of increasing biomass in the forest.
Management through extensive grazing in the Pitiusa mayor can help reduce the fuel load in the forest, reduce the risk of forest fires and contribute to the improvement of biodiversity, among many other ecological and social benefits. At times as delicate as today is an issue that should be taken into account.
We are already in dialogue with the Insular Ministry of Agriculture and Medí Ambient to launch an experimental project for the use of native cattle in the forests of Ibiza in areas at high risk of fire. Similar initiatives have been carried out with great success in the Sierra de Tramuntana in Mallorca, in the Community of Madrid and in the Doñana Natural Park in Andalusia”
And as an element of social reintegration and therapy for the disabled?
Interaction with animals for therapeutic purposes has accompanied humanity since its origins and is still carried out today by indigenous tribes that have never been separated from nature.
Donkey therapy is a direct interaction with donkeys, calm animals, very affectionate, and with great ease to connect and communicate with humans. Sharing feelings when words are not needed produces an immediate mutual understanding.
The bases of therapy are scientific, the same as those of psychology, physiotherapy and medicine, what changes is the area where it takes place, in our case we change consultations in closed spaces for an outdoor space, in the middle of nature, and we allow ourselves to be helped by magnificent co- therapists, the donkeys, inducers of endorphin and motivation for any learning and development of new skills. The donkey's ability to relate is an essential tool in animal mediation, since emotions are a powerful catalyst of the therapeutic process.
The donkey is a calm animal, it does not have the nervousness of the horse. In the case of being frightened by a sudden noise or gesture, the donkey stops and refuses to move forward, there is no risk that it will run uncontrollably. Furthermore, despite its modest size, the donkey can be ridden and can work well in the psycho-motor area as well as with the horse.
What are the benefits of donkey therapy?
Facilitates exchanges and breaks isolation, stimulates motivation, allows non-verbal communication, allows self-improvement, responsibility and value. In addition, it stimulates the senses and facilitates learning.
Donkeys need you !
Adopt a Burrito of Pura Raza Balear!
Donate to buy a Truck to transport our Donkeys!
Support the Forest Fire Prevention Project.
Support our Animal Assisted Therapies (T.A.C.A.)
As a no-profit association we always appreciate the participation of
those who want to help us. Any help is essential to us.
We receive donations via Paypal or Bank Transfer Colonya Caixa Pollença
You can deduct 75% of the first 150 euros and 35% of what exceeds 150 euros.
(Arts. 68.3, 69.1 IRPF Law; 69.2 Regulations)
Puig den Coques
07840 Santa Eularia de Riu
2016 - 2020 Associaciò Pitiüsa Raça Asenca Balear (A.P.R.A.B.) N.I.F. G16515942