Down a quiet road, just kilometers from the banks of the Nile and the bustling center of Luxor, locals from nearby villages line up at the gates of Animal Care in Egypt (ACE) with their sick and injured horses, donkeys, and camels in tow.
On the other side of the gate, staff, vets and volunteers are busy readying the clinic and operating rooms while the hospital’s inpatients are attended to and given their morning feeds.
When the gates open at 8am, as they have every day for nearly two decades, the animals file in to be washed before being redirected to the clinic. Here, vets diagnose the problem and either send them on their way with treatment, or admit them to the stables and paddocks for inpatient care. All the while, the owners – often farmers – stand by desperately hoping for the former to occur.
In Luxor, farming is the principle source of income for families, and at ACE working animals make up the majority of the patients they see at their free hospital. When Kim Taylor and Julie Wartenburg founded ACE in 2000, their inspiration wasn’t the grieving tale of a farmer who lost his family’s only donkey to a treatable disease. What inspired them, as they traveled around Luxor on holiday, was one too many encounters with animals living in poor conditions. In other words, their trip to Egypt led them to pack up their homes in the UK and dedicate their lives to helping animals in need of a better quality of life.
They started with a small plot of land where owners could bring their animals for a good cleaning, free of charge. As word spread throughout the nearby villages and more funding came in for their charity, they began to realize that, as much as the animals deserved a better quality of life, the real issue at hand wasn’t animal welfare as much as it was about drawing the connection between animal care and the locals’ livelihoods.
VISIT ANIMAL CARE IN EGYPT ON THE FOLLOWING INTREPID SMALL GROUP ADVENTURES:
As in most Egyptian villages reliant on farming, working animals are a necessary link in the chain to putting food on the table each day. Without a healthy animal, that livelihood disappears. So why are so many horses and donkeys in Luxor being overworked, mistreated and terribly underfed? The reason, Kim and Julie quickly realized, is not malice, but a lack of compassionate education and resources.
With this newfound understanding of the real issue at hand, Kim and Julie put together a new vision for ACE – a free veterinary hospital for the people of Luxor, and an education program that breaks the cycle of animal maltreatment. Following a substantial fundraising effort in the UK, ACE constructed the veterinary hospital, stables, paddocks and classroom that stand today on the quiet outskirts of Luxor. It’s a place that every Luxor local knows as the “big animal hospital” and one that every schoolchild in the area could likely say they’ve visited at least once. ACE has woven itself into the fabric of Luxor life, not because they offer free animal care where it previously never existed, but because they are offering locals a new sense of control over their livelihoods through the simple act of taking better care of their animals.
Their education program is perhaps the most important aspect of the entire project. After all, the students of today are the animal owners of tomorrow. Having offered classes for nearly a decade at this point, ACE is seeing firsthand the benefits of their forward thinking. The students who passed through the center years ago are the ones bringing their animals in for preventative care today. The transformation around animal welfare in Luxor is finally taking tangible form.
ACE has managed to operate for 18 years now without a single Egyptian pound of support from the government. Beyond their team of volunteers, it’s donations that ensure ACE’s Egyptian veterinary and stable staff are paid, the drugs are stocked and the animals are fed. Without donations, ACE would not be able to keep up with the nearly 85 distressed and suffering animals brought to their doorstep each day, nor could they continue bussing in 150 students a week for lessons – a crucial component of what they do.
By supporting ACE, you are helping sick, injured or mistreated working animals in Luxor, while shifting the perspective around animal care through Luxor’s next generation of animal owners. Your donations help ACE expand their work in Luxor and beyond, and increase their capacity to support those who rely on working animals for their livelihood.
To support Animal Care in Egypt, visit theintrepidfoundation.org. The Intrepid Foundation supports organisations that improve livelihoods through sustainable travel experiences and they’ll match every donation – dollar for dollar – made through their website.
All images by Pat O’Neill.