Eeyore plague: wild donkeys overrun Cyprus villages

Left to roam after the Turkish invasion in 1974, the beasts have thrived

A A A

The donkeys of Cyprus are a particularly stubborn lot. Decades after machines replaced them as the backbone of the farming economy, the animals just refuse to bow out. Fiercely territorial wild herds have overrun a remote part of the island, trampling crops, scaring drivers and giving authorities a headache over what to do.

The invasion has pitted village communities against environmental activists. The donkeys also serve as an unlikely reminder of the violent recent history of Cyprus – split for the past 35 years into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north. Mehmet Demirci, mayor of Dipkarpaz, or Rizokarpaso in Greek, in the breakaway Turkish north, says donkeys outnumber villagers by two to one and should be forcibly sterilised, or even expelled to Turkey.

"The donkeys are a real problem. The authorities just don't care about us," Mr Demirci said. He added that the last straw was the death last summer of a local youth, who crashed his car trying to avoid a wandering herd.

Although estimates of the precise number of feral donkeys vary, Mr Demirci says there are now about 1,000, all officially protected by Turkish Cypriot authorities. The beasts are a peculiar remnant of war, abandoned in 1974 by Greek Cypriot farmers fleeing an invading Turkish army. The island has since been split along ethnic lines, despite repeated diplomatic efforts for its reunification.

Despite a lack of human care, the animals have multiplied and thrived in the sparsely populated Karpas peninsula, a largely unspoiled sliver of land sticking out of the Mediterranean island's north-eastern edge. Over the decades, they have been broadly adopted as a cuddly symbol of the island's agrarian past. "Donkeys have offered so much," says Maria Nicolaou, manager of a donkey sanctuary near the coastal resort of Limassol, in the island's internationally recognised Greek-Cypriot south. "They are beautiful animals and very smart."

But most Karpas residents just see the animals as a major pain. Mr Demirci says 1,000 donkeys are far too many for a 116 square mile (300 square kilometre) area. Locals say they gobble up wheat and barley crops, ravage fruit and vegetable gardens, trample down vines and wantonly amble across the peninsula's narrow roads.

Mr Demirci says at least three villagers have been convicted of shooting donkeys dead and have each been fined €1,000 (£876). They were fortunate to avoid jail – intentionally killing the protected animals is punishable by up to seven years in prison. Hoping to capitalise on the frustration, one Turkish businessman offered to buy several of the donkeys at €1,000 per head, and put them to tourism-related work in Antalya, Turkey. Mr Demirci said the idea "made good sense", but was turned down by Turkish Cypriot authorities. Word of the rumoured sale drew quick condemnation from environmentalists on either side of the heavily militarised divide. Kenyan Atakol, head of the Turkish Cypriot environmentalist group Cekova, says sterilisation is a solution officials could consider.

Local conservationist Lois Cemal says a "sustainable" donkey population could be rounded up and placed in two or three smaller sanctuaries that could be converted into moneymaking eco-tourism enterprises, such as petting zoos or farms. "Ecotourism is a solution for sustainable development," she says. "You won't need to build five-star hotels."

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
football
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Assessor

£26000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: SAP Assessor Job T...

SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: SEN Jobs Available Devon

Infrastructure Lead, (Trading, VCE, Converged, Hyper V)

£600 - £900 per day: Harrington Starr: Infrastructure Lead, (Trading infrastru...

Software Solution Technician - Peterborough - up to £21,000

£20000 - £21000 per annum + Training: Ashdown Group: Graduate Software Solutio...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering