The Donkey Sanctuary of Les Murtes
Carolyne Howe / 2005-05-09 17:06:55
Donkeys have always played an important part in world history, being a traditional beast of burden, over thousands of years all over the world. We can recall that there was a donkey in the Nativity stable in Bethlehem, as we also remember that Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday riding a donkey. In fact, the donkey is actually mentioned 127 times in the Bible.
In more recent times, comparatively speaking, Columbus, Pizarro and other Spanish Conquistadores used donkeys during their explorations of South America.
So, in this day and age, it is very satisfying to find that Spanish donkeys, especially the 'Mamochex' (the big donkey of Andalusia and Cordoba) are being saved from extinction. Although protected in Spain for some 200 years, there are only about 82 of these donkeys in the world today, 35 of them living a very happy life at 'Les Murtes'.
The sanctuary is located in the very picturesque Jalon valley, just 2.5 kilometres off the Bernia road. Though it is a little difficult to reach, the visitor will find the effort well worthwhile, and will be assured of a hearty welcome by the owners and founders, Alex Aretz, a jovial German who is a real character, and his French wife, Edith. Between them, they have built a haven of peace and tranquillity for many donkeys. Alex will gladly rescue any donkey that is suffering from cruelty or neglect anywhere in Spain.
The sanctuary, some ten hectares of terraced mountain pasture is now recognised as being one of the largest donkey stud farms in Spain, and Alex aims to preserve the various breeds to avoid them becoming extinct. With this in mind he has set up a breeding programme. Two foals were born in 2003 and several more in 2004. At present, Alex has ten mares, four jacks (stallions) and eight geldings.
The sanctuary is open to the public, free entry, but any donations towards the upkeep of the donkeys are gratefully accepted. Many souvenir items are on sale as well as beautiful watercolour paintings of the donkeys by local artist Monika Bucholz. There is also a restaurant but booking in advance is advised. Phone 96 597 3244.
All in all 'Les Murtes' is a wonderful place to visit, set in absolutely stunning scenery and with the bonus of helping the donkeys.