The Italian Almanac

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Sardinia's donkey

Italian News - January 31

A Milanese industrial consultant, who packed in his highly paid job for a life of rural tranquillity, is now on a crusade to save Sardinia's dwindling donkey population from extinction. Giorgio Mazzucchetti fell in love with the tiny island of San Pietro off the southwest coast of Sardinia over a decade ago but has only been living there for the last three years.

Mazzucchetti, who holds degrees in chemistry and agriculture, has always had a passion for animals at risk of extinction but since moving to San Pietro, the fate of the Sardinian donkey has become his life's work. Together with his wife Cristina and their twins, Ginevra and Matteo, they have converted and extended an abandoned patch of land into a home both for themselves and the donkeys.

"Throughout Sardinia, there are probably around 150 animals left," he said. "There may be a few more living in the mountains but the risk of extinction is still worryingly high, even though the Sardinian variety is disease resistant and requires little food or water". There was once a thriving "asinello sardo" population scattered across Sardinia and its satellite islands. But this has plummeted due to the growth in motor transport, combined with the popularity of the animal's tender white meat.

Mazzucchetti receives no official financing for his sanctuary, which he funds with the occasional freelance consultancy job in Milan. Donations from visitors who stumble across his donkey haven in the hills en route to a nearby beach also help.