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SPANA Launches Emergency Feeding Programme For Morocco's Starving Horses

1 year ago

21st May, 2020 14h31


International animal charity SPANA has launched an emergency feeding programme in Marrakech, to save the city’s carriage horses, which are facing starvation.

Hundreds of caleche horses in Marrakech are suffering from malnutrition and struggling to survive following the collapse of the tourist industry amid the global pandemic. The horses usually transport holidaymakers around the bustling medina, but the loss of income has left their owners unable to afford to feed them. 

The caleche horses have been off the streets in Marrakech since 20 March, following the declaration of a nationwide state of emergency. All commercial flights to and from Morocco have been suspended, and the rapid halt in visitors is having a severe impact.

SPANA is to launch an urgent appeal for animals affected by the pandemic. In Morocco,  working with local partners, the SPANA team is delivering lifesaving concentrated feed to almost 600 horses in Marrakech and the neighbouring town of Aït Ourir.

Geoffrey Dennis, Chief Executive of SPANA, which provides free veterinary treatment to working animals in developing countries worldwide, said: “The devastating impact of the coronavirus is far-reaching and, as the economic situation worsens, the survival of countless working animals is now under severe threat.

“In developing countries, working animals – including those used for tourism – are a lifeline for their owners, providing a livelihood for people in many of the world’s poorest communities. In the absence of work however, it is proving impossible for owners to afford basic necessities for their animals. Owners are becoming increasingly desperate about the prospect of losing their animals and the terrible, long-term implications this will have.

“The end point of this global crisis is unknown. But it is essential that measures, such as our emergency feeding programme, are taken to prevent animal suffering and to assist people in the poorest communities to keep their animals alive.”

Morocco is not the only country in which working animals are facing a dire situation. In Tunisia, Egypt and other tourist hotspots, a similar crisis exists, with increasing numbers of animals being abandoned by their out of work owners.

Globally, an estimated 200 million working horses, donkeys, camels, elephants and other animals provide a livelihood for over half a billion people in the world’s poorest communities. By doing the jobs of trucks, tractors and taxis – and transporting people, goods and water – these animals ensure a livelihood for impoverished families.

SPANA has worked in Morocco since 1925 and operates veterinary centres in Marrakech and across the country. The charity, which provided veterinary care to more than 37,000 working horses, donkeys, mules and other animals in Morocco last year, oversees a licensing scheme for Marrakech’s caleche horses, which means that all horses must be regularly inspected, and passed as fit and healthy, before they can be worked. Following a successful health check, the horses are adorned with a SPANA band on their fetlock.

The charity also holds an annual ‘Caleche of the Year’ awards ceremony. This event, which has been hosted by SPANA every year since 1996, celebrates the caleche carriage owners and their horses, recognising the best animal welfare practices. It includes a range of award categories, such as best horse, best horse and carriage, and best effort. All of the winners are rewarded with copper plaques for their carriages, along with bags of barley for the horses.

For more information about SPANA’s lifesaving work during the pandemic, and the emergency feeding programme in Marrakech, please visit

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