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Donkeys on the picturesque Greek island of Santorini are being crippled by carrying heavy holidaymakers - as locals resort to breeding the beasts with mules so they can carry heavier tourists.
Between the peak summer months of May to October, up to five cruise ships a day bringing swarms of 1,200 tourists visit the small island to marvel at its idyllic white houses.
Santorini - Terrain - Donkeys - People - Areas
Santorini is known for its hilly terrain and donkeys have traditionally been used to transport people over the famously stepped areas which vehicles cannot access, such as in capital Fira.
But animal rights activists claim with obesity on the rise, the animals are being forced to carry ever-heavier loads while they work long hours, seven days a week without shelter, rest and water - leaving them with spinal injuries and open wounds from ill-fitting saddles.
Charities - Explosion - Tourists - Locals - Animals
And charities say the explosion of overweight tourists even means locals who are keen to get the most out of their animals have been forced to crossbreed donkeys with mules, which are bigger and taller and can carry heavier loads with more stamina.
A spokesman for Help the Santorini Donkeys charity said: 'It's recommended that animals should carry no more than 20 per cent of their own body weight.
Tourists - Lack - Shade - Water - Sheer
'The obese and overweight tourists, combined with the lack of shade and water as well as the sheer heat and 568 cobbled steps, is what is causing such a problem.
'There should be a weight restriction. With donkeys it is should be no more than eight stone, but how would that be imposed and who would be there to make sure that happened?
Mules - Donkeys - Enough
'Now they're having to resort to using cross-bred mules, because the donkeys just aren't strong enough.'
Christina Kaloudi, 42, moved to the island from Athens 10 years ago and set up the Santorini Animal Welfare Association to help overworked...
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