By Charlotte Markham, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Last Wednesday (18th), the Mayor of Rio de Janeiro made the decision to remove the 31 horses that were used to transport tourists around Ilha de Paquetá (Paqueta Island). Beginning Sunday 22nd, small electric cars, capable of transporting five people at a time will replace the traditional horse wagons for which the island was renowned.
The picturesque Ilha de Paquetá, a small island of 2.3 km situated in Guanabara Bay, rather than upgrading to use cars, maintained the traditional method of horse and carriage to ferry visitors around the small landmass.
However, due to complaints that their feces and urine were contaminating the environment, as well as the lack of money to maintain the stables and the allegations of ill-treatment, the horse wagons became an unsustainable feature, which triggered Rio’s government to take action through banning the trade.
Many residents are in dispute about the decision. Seventy nine year-old Wilson Alves, who lives on the island feels that the area is losing its traditions, “It’s very sad, the neighborhood has many good things, but its traditions are being lost. Now another one has been lost too.”
Whereas some demonstrators are glad that the government has taken action to prevent further exploitation of the animals. Julia Menezes explained that “the horses suffer. You should see in summer when they carry people the entire day,” adding that “sometimes you can see they have open wounds.”
According to authorities, following the removal twenty horses were donated to the NGO Sanctuary of Fairies of Itaipava, the rest will also be sent to another location yet to be defined. Ilha de Paquetá remains a popular weekend destination, easily walkable by foot or the new golf buggies and can be reached by a ferry that leaves from Praça XV in Centro, Rio de Janeiro, for R$5.60 each way.
Just one hour by boat from Centro, the tiny Ilha de Paquetá lies in the tranquil waters of Guanabara Bay. Part of the state of Rio de Janeiro, it measures just 1.2km in diameter and 8km in circumference, roughly the size of the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas.