JAAN reaches out to horses in the Gili Islands of Indonesia
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2010:
JAKARTA–Encouraged by success with a working horse aid
program in Jakarta initially funded by ANIMAL PEOPLE, the Jakarta
Animal Aid Network hopes for similar results in the Gili Islands.
Located off the north coast of Lombok, Gili Trawangan, Gili
Meno and Gili Air offer reef diving and night life that attract
tourists from around the world. “No motorized vehicles are allowed
on the islands,” explains JAAN founder Femke den Haas. Horses are
the main means of transport.
Surveying the condition of the Gili horses during the first
nine days of April 2010, den Haas “learned that the horse owners all
came from Lombok in the 1990s,” she told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “Many,”
den Haas found, “started with little to no knowledge about horses,
as they were mostly fishers.”
The peak summer and winter tourist seasons are both dry
seasons in the Gili Islands. None of the islands have much natural
shade. Only Gili Air has fresh water.
“All of the horses are fed grass which is obtained from
Lombok,” den Haas learned. “All horses at Gili Meno are provided
drinking water from Lombok. But to reduce costs, sufficient water
is not provided. If the recommended amount is 10 gallons a day,” or
15 gallons for hard-working horses, “at Gili Meno the average horse
drinks five gallons.
“Horses on Gili Trawangan are provided salty well water
only,” den Haas found. “Salty water leads to serious dehydration
and kidney problems. The horses refuse to drink the water, so water
is mixed with their food. The horses are continuously thirsty. Some
hotels have started to provide fresh water for the working horses in
buckets,” den Haas noted. “But the horse owners and drivers say
they can’t let their horses drink, as they will have to take off
their mouthpieces, which causes them to lose control over the
horses. Also they are afraid the horses will get colic after
drinking fresh water,” den Haas added.
Ironically, the water the horses are given is severely
contaminated with fecal coliform bacteria, den Haas learned by
having several samples tested. “The horse owners were unaware that
serious dehydration also leads to colic and that salty water leads to
dehydration,” den Haas reported.
Because there are no veterinarians, farriers, or
blacksmiths on the islands, den Haas saw, the horse owners rely on
ineffective and often cruel folk remedies for injuries and disease,
neglect hoof care until the horses can barely walk, and use
ill-fitting horseshoes haphazardly held on with construction nails.
A further problem endemic to the Gili Islands, den Haas
observed, is that “The sand is so deep on some roads that the horses
can hardly pull their heavy loads through it,” and are flogged to
keep them moving. No restrictions are enforced on either how much
weight a horse may be asked to pull, or how long per day the horse
might be worked.
“The average life of a horse on Gili Trawangan is three years
only,” den Haas told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “The horse owners in Gili
Trawangan make the most money, because it is the busiest island and
construction work is going on all around the island to build new
hotels. The owners just buy new horses when their horses are too
ill to work or drop dead.” Replacement horses “are purchased at the
Masbagik market in eastern Lombok,” den Haas learned. “Horses
caught in the wild in Sumbawa are brought there by truck. The horses
come to the Gili islands after they have been trained to pull the
Den Haas visited the Masbagik market on April 5, 2010,
“and observed the distress of the horses for sale,” she e-mailed.
Den Haas and JAAN ventured to the Gili Islands a little more
than a year after beginning work on behalf of Jakarta carriage
horses. The Jakarta horses “are all now tagged with a microchip and
the owner registered,” de Haas explained. “With ANIMAL PEOPLE’s
help, we educated drivers about horse care, trained ten farriers,
and provided free medical treatment to the horses. Carriage owners
who were willing to improve the care of their horses were provided
with license plates and regulation cards, which they placed inside
their carriages, including a number for passengers to call if they
“JAAN is willing to implement a similar system for carriage
horses in the Gili Islands,” den Haas pledged. “Hotels can then
ensure that only carriage horses who are well cared for can serve
tourists from their hotels and be endorsed by the hotels.”