Abdenabi Nouidi sold his favorite horse for $150. He had to. The carriage driver needed money to feed his other work horses. His teams pull tourists in carriages through Marrakech, Morocco. But visitors in the city have vanished during the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of Morocco’s carriage horses and donkeys are suffering because of the collapsing tourism industry.
Starvation looms for many of these animals. The Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad, or SPANA, says that Morocco’s carriage horses are among 200 million animals worldwide that provide livelihoods for over a half billion people.
Thousands of people in Marrakech depend on carriage horses for income. A single carriage supports four to five families. That includes carriage owners, drivers, and stable boys.
When Morocco confirmed the first virus case in March, the North African kingdom closed its doors to outsiders. It banned domestic travel to eight cities, including Marrakech.
“If you have a shop, you can close it. If you sell goods, you store them. But imagine having . . . horses who need to eat, drink, and get medical care,” says Abdeljalil Nouidi.
For 20 years, the four Nouidi brothers have taken tourists sightseeing in horse-drawn carriages. This year, they have empty pockets and mouths to fill, both at home and at the stable. They sold seven of their horses in July. The horses that remain are visibly nervous. With no carriage work, the beasts’ routines have been disrupted. Feed is running low, and stablemates are leaving for good.
Matthew 10:29 says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” God cares for Morocco’s horses just as He cares for each sparrow.
SPANA has stepped in to help. It delivered three months’ worth of feed to almost 600 horses in and around Marrakech. “It became very clear to us when the lockdown was first imposed that many of Marrakech’s working animals would need our help or face a dire outcome,” says the head veterinarian at SPANA’s Marrakech center. A team of vets and technicians there care for donkeys, mules, and horses free of charge.
“Only tourism can save us from this catastrophe we’re facing,” says carriage driver Abdeljalil Belghaoute. “The longer this goes on, horses and families will struggle to survive.”