As nature lovers, it goes without saying that we care about all animals on and around the islands. We are not alone, there are two projects on the island that focus all their attention on animals, namely Cats of Gili and Horses of Gili.
Please visit these two non-profit projects and gain a better understanding of their work, you will also be able to see their latest activities.
We also help support other animal welfare activities such as free vet clinics with Animal Aid Abroad and feeding the horses and cats during times of crisis, such as the 2018 earthquakes and 2020 covid lockdown.
As we often get asked a lot of questions about the animals on the Gili Islands, we have addressed just some of the main issues here.
Residents of the Gili Islands, like most of Indonesia, are Muslim. The islands are still traditional in many respects, including in the use of horses for transport.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
CULTURE, RELIGION & ATTITUDES
The Gili Islands are still very traditional in many respects, for many people it can be a surprise that horses are still used as a means of transport here. This is the traditional means of transport, not just here or on Lombok, but also throughout much of Indonesia. On the one hand, many people agree that it is charming, much more peaceful and environmentally friendly than if we were to have motorised transport instead. However, the challenge is ensuring the horses are treated well.
While we do not have the influence to be able to change or stop the use of horses altogether, there are many of us on the islands who care deeply about their welfare, including the drivers themselves.
Just like everywhere in the world, there are people who love animals and those who don’t care quite as much. If you are reading this, it suggests that you care about animals as much as we do. Although there has been significant progress in attitudes towards to animals in many countries over the years, it isn’t necessarily the same here, the journey is slow and requires a lot of patience.
Indonesia is also almost entirely muslim (with the exception of Bali which is balinese Hindu). The Gili Islands uniquely do not have any dogs as they have been banned according to village rules. We understand this is because cats are considered a cleaner animal from a religious perspective, and therefore preferred over dogs.
We must always bear these cultural and religious sensitivities in mind and therefore our efforts in educating locals and raising awareness about key animal welfare and health issues remains a core priority.
Most local Indonesians, including the Cidomo drivers, earn a very humble living. The drivers in particular, must pay fees to the owner of their horse, buy horse feed which must be shipped from the mainland, pay rent on a property where they can keep the horses and usually live on site also. There is usually very little left from their salary to be able to live off themselves. It is a real financial challenge for drivers to be able to pay for the food and level of care their horses need. In challenging times such as the earthquakes of 2018 and Covid 19, as well as the long recovery period after, it is a continued struggle to be able to earn enough to care for their horses better.
Looking after animals and paying for food or medical treatment is quite literally a luxury they often cannot afford.
Most drivers care for their horses with the best intentions but may not always know the best way to do so. They also often don’t have access to a skilled farrier and may try to make their own handmade horse shoes, for example. One of the main areas of focus for Horses of Gili and Gili Eco Trust is helping to educate drivers and owners of how to care for their animals.
The Gili Islands currently have no vets on the islands, the nearest ones are on Lombok, but those who specialise in horse care are even harder to find. For years the only way any animal could get care was to go to the mainland of Lombok, however, when the Gili Eco Trust was founded, we began organising free vet clinics with experienced vets who would come from all around the globe to help volunteer their time.
Animals native to the Gili Islands include the numerous species of birds and monitor lizards. Most other animals on the island are introduced domestic farm animals including cows, goats and chickens. Native songbirds are kept by many Indonesian residents as pets, you will often see cages hanging outside of shops and you may sometimes see locals gathering at the football field to have a birdsong competition. Keeping exotic pets is still something we see across all of Indonesia and Asia. As there are so many issues for us to care about already and this requires a huge cultural change in attitude, we are not able to give these issues our full attention and have to prioritise our efforts on where our expertise and urgency lies.
As we do already have a large focus on our underwater habitats and marine life, we have recently started a turtle protection programme, which you we will update you on soon.
The cats of the Gili Islands are world famous and adored by tourists and residents alike. They are possibly the friendliest you will ever meet.
The two most noticeable features you will find about many of the cats on the Gili Islands are their unusual tails and ear markings.
STUMPY OR DEFORMED TAILS
The cats on the Gili Islands are largely stray and the population has been growing in an uncontrolled way for many years since they were first introduced by residents as pets. The result is a largely inbred population, which leads to genetic and physical deformities. Stumpy, crooked and weird tails are the most obvious sign. It is one of the many reasons Cats of Gili works hard to keep the cat population under control through an ongoing Trap Neuter Return sterilisation programme.
You will see in this photograph this cat has a V-shaped cut in his left ear. This is what is called “tipping” and happens when a stray cat is sterilised (neutered) as part of a Trap Neuter Return Programme. These programmes are run internationally to help keep stray cat populations under control and it tells us the cat is already neutered and therefore cannot breed.
Cats of Gili runs regular volunteer vet clinics to help run this TNR programme on the islands and cat catchers know that a cat with this ear marking does not need to be taken to the vet.
It is painless for the cat as it is done while they are under anaesthetic. It is similar to having your ears pierced except that the cat is asleep at the time.
CATS OF GILI
This particular cat was rescued from a dive centre in very poor condition. He was underweight due to worms, he had fleas, an abscess that needed surgical removal and was covered in scratches. These photographs were taken 3 weeks apart, before and after he was treated by the volunteer vets and cared for by one of our volunteers during his recovery. This is an example of how Cats of Gili and the volunteer vet clinics are so valuable in helping to keep the cats healthy.
Choosing your Cidomo wisely
RESEARCH THE LOCATION OF YOUR HOTEL BEFORE ARRIVAL
Many people don’t even know how lucky they are. Almost all hotels, hostels and resorts on Trawangan are less than a 20 minute walk!
CHOOSE A HORSE-FRIENDLY HOTEL!
Some hotels have started to leave drinking water out for horses to drink whilst waiting. Also, some are encouraging more shaded streets, and more tree cover so the horses don’t have to work in full sun.
SUPPORT THE HORSES OF GILI
Non-stop work and (socialising) with local horse drivers to build rapport and teach them better ways to treat their horses.
DONATE TO THE NEXT WORKING HORSE CLINIC
(see Horses of Gili)
What happens if we find a sick or injured animal?
The Gili Islands do not currently have a permanent vet. If you are concerned about a cat, it would be best to contact Cats of Gili.
Tori Taylor, founder of Horses of Gili and manager at Lutwala is a former veterinary technician and is often able to help with animal emergencies.
If you are not sure, you can also get in touch with us and we will try to help.