The long-awaited acquisition of our new haven of peace has finally been completed and we can now welcome our many Argentinian animals there! After seven years on a premise in a natural paradise that had become too small and increasingly hostile, our rescued animals will soon be able to frolic on an area of more than 300 hectares of grassland and mountain pastures. But before the animals and our staff can enjoy this well-deserved freedom and space, several challenges await our team.
“They cut the fences again and wanted to steal the horses. A few days later they even shot and just missed one of our workers. The situation here is getting more and more dangerous”. Based on the reports of Alejandra Garcia, Head of Equidad, we could not afford to wait any longer: intensified even more by the health and economic crisis, there were more and more attempts to attack and steal our animals. So we had to take immediate action to bring our workers and our fosterlings to safety. Since our rescued horses and other animals created perfidious greed of intruders who – especially in these times of crisis – only see meat and easy money in them. In addition to the security emergency, keeping nearly 300 animals on ten hectares was no longer reasonable.
A haven of peace Faced with this scenario, our dream finally became reality: in a few weeks, we can start transporting our fosterlings to their new estate, where 312 hectares of secluded nature await them! But the most difficult part is still ahead of us because our four-legged friends are suffering from the consequences of previous traumas and severe physical injuries after years of abuse. As a result, they are timid and do not always obey. Despite all the love and care we give them every day, some of them remain trapped in their fears. We cannot explain to them that the chaotic transport in a confined space for over 60 kilometres of rough mountain roads is for the sole purpose of providing them with a better life. And so we need to use all our ingenuity to prepare them as well as possible for this journey and to allay their fears.
A strong team As always, our fosterlings can count on their guardian angels to stand by them on this delicate mission. Six staff and eight volunteers will constantly switch between the old and the new sanctuary: they will not only prepare the new premises and look after the first arrivals, but also take care of the animals still staying at the old sanctuary. To prepare the most sensitive animals in the best possible way, we also hired an animal trainer. He will certainly not be bored with our menagerie of 160 horses, 1 buffalo, 10 roosters, 2 mules, 4 ponies, 7 donkeys, 3 dwarf donkeys, 14 cows, 23 goats, 11 sheep, 25 pigs, 3 wild boars, 4 llamas and 25 dogs!
Extensive planning and work Our teams of staff and volunteers are working hard. We need to fence the 312-hectare land so that we can put up a firewall in case of a forest fire, as well as check the condition of the fence, replace damaged posts and wires. The second step is to build large paddocks where horses that are old or have health problems can live safely.
We prepare the animals one by one As realistic optimists, we have set the goal to complete the evacuation of our companions in two months. We estimate that about thirty trips will be necessary, as we have to take into account the sensitivities and consubstantialities of each animal to form small transport groups. While we anticipate a lot of effort and challenges with all our fosterlings, our cattle are our biggest concern, especially Laura, our buffalo cow rescued from a zoo. We will never forget her transport to Equidad: It took three hours to load her! As she has a fickle temperament – sometimes she shows us her affection, other times she keeps her distance – we are worried about her mood swings, which could complicate and delay her transfer. It will be an essential task of our trainer to familiarise her with the loading and manage her fear. We have trained our 14 cows and bulls to avoid people – an essential measure to protect them from dangerous situations. They too can count on the expertise and goodwill of our specialist, who will teach them to walk calmly onto a trailer.
Travelling with care… After cattle, pigs are among the animals whose transport will be the most tricky. These extremely sensitive animals are known to suffer cardiac arrest under severe stress – especially on the journey to the slaughterhouse. Therefore, special transport conditions will apply to them: We may take them two at a time in our cars! To avoid any unpleasant surprises, we have already informed the authorities and the police so that they are not startled about our special kind of car sharing.
…and in good company! Stress and the sensitivity of our little survivors with dark pasts are not the only challenges we face with this huge move: We also have to be considerate of each animal’s sensibility and illnesses. Tornadito, our little pony, is one of the animals for whom special travel arrangements have to be made. Being handicapped by an old, poorly healed leg fracture with a tendon contracture, he needs a rubber mat to keep his balance for almost two hours. For safety, cameras will be installed in the trailer so that our staff can rush to his aid if there is any problem. He will be able to count on the support of Rialto, his best friend, an old horse. The two are now inseparable, and Rialto will travel with him!
Other inseparable horses are our beautiful Silvina and her filly Soledad, who will of course travel together. Thanks to the trailer’s video surveillance, they too will enjoy secure transport.
Our little llamas will be the last to leave the sanctuary. It will take a long time before they trust us. But we have a good plan to soften them up: maize! We are counting on their sweet tooth to be greater than their timidness and to make them follow us into the trailer without panicking.
New challenges As you can imagine, our task for the coming months is not limited to the preparation of the animals and their transport. In parallel, our team also has to take care of the facilities of the new sanctuary. Although it is a real paradise, some main infrastructures are still missing to accommodate our numerous volunteers and staff.
For example, we need to buy materials – and take them with us from our current location – to build fences so that our little companions don’t run away. We also need to restore the residential buildings where we can house our volunteers.
Another challenge is the seclusion of the new sanctuary. While it is a blessing from a security point of view, at the same time it makes communication with the outside world and in medical or veterinary emergencies difficult. Therefore, we need to buy a trailer suitable to transport two horses – the veterinary clinic of Córdoba is three hours away by car. We also need to set up a “sick bay” for the animals that need to be treated on-site.
And finally, despite the many solar panels already in place at the new site, we need to find a way to set up internet and phone service via satellite and to connect all our buildings to electricity.
In short, we still have a long way to go, but we are closer to our goal. We have already achieved the most important thing: soon we will no longer have to fear for our lives and those of our animals!
Protect, nurture, preserve The 312 hectares of our new land is the natural habitat of numerous native animal species that find their home and food in the forest. Here they can live protected from human interference. For this reason, naturalist Ximena Merelle Dherve will stay with us for a while and catalogue all wild animal and plant species. This way we can develop programmes to better protect them. Ximena has already started photographing the birds of the area, which surprise us with their beauty and colours.