Wild Donkeys in Cyprus seem to come from two strains, a smaller breed descended from the African Ass and a larger, European Donkey. They have lived on the Island for thousands of years.
Like their human owners they worked the fields, bringing olives and grain to market. These animals were a common sight on every small, family farm. In the sixties and seventies things began to change not the farmer and donkey. Tractors and trucks revolutionized agriculture and the donkey was no longer a necessity.
In the nineteen-seventies hatred and death came to the Island and many families were forced to flee to safety. For the most part, they carried what they could and left the rest behind. Homes were abandoned and the farm animals were set free. These empty houses can be easily seen and are now falling in.
These donkeys found themselves abandoned and roaming the countryside. After things settled down, something needed to be done. There was talk of transporting these now excess donkeys to Turkey but instead the decision was taken to move them to the sparsely populated Karpaz Peninsula. But the farmers there found them difficult to control because they ate crops and invaded fields.
It was finally decided to create a sanctuary for the donkey. A National Park was formed at the tip of the peninsula and donkey-proof fencing and barriers were installed to contain them inside the new Park. All feral donkeys were relocated and remain there today. They finally have freedom (about 51 square miles) and peace.
In the early two-thousands they numbered less than one thousand and today over two thousand. The donkeys have become something of a tourists attraction, setting up roadblocks to stop cars they have learned to wait until the windows are rolled down, stick their heads inside the car and receive treats.
During the Winter the donkeys are occasionally difficult to locate, they retreat to the backcountry during rainy season to munch new, green shoots. They don’t need to deal with tourists and live in quiet hills. During the Summer they will be found along the road and around the Monastery.
If you would like to learn more about the wonderful area, we have created a Blog article on The Karpaz Peninsula.