It's Christmas: in the Nativity Scene there are the OX and... THE PANTESCAN DONKEY.
The holidays have begun, and next to the tree, bright and shining, the nativity scene shines, with all its typical figures. Even Pantelleria, in its own way, has one, truly unique in the world: the Pantelleria donkey, a mild and unfortunately now rare presence on the island, to which so many stories are linked as a testimony to the solid alliance and affectionate relationship that domestic animals are able to build with humans.
A demonstration of the extraordinary nature of this native breed is the case of Gaspare Giannusa, the "blind man from Siba", guided throughout his life by ten Pantelleria donkeys, including Catarina, tragically disappeared, succeeded by Ciuriddra, donated by an entrepreneur from Agrigento moved by the sad story and determined to help the blind man. Giannusa in fact used the donkeys as a support to go to work and to have the possibility of being independent despite his blindness; he trained them himself, every day, with patience and sweetness.
The Pantelleria donkey has been for a long time a precious resource for the economy of the island, thanks to its longevity, robust constitution, and ability to transport very heavy loads with an elegant and fast pace through fields and along steep paths. A native breed born from the crossbreeding of the African wild donkey and Ragusa donkeys, the Pantelleria donkey is unfortunately today at risk of extinction; precisely for this reason, the Forest Demaniale Company of the Sicilian Region, together with the Departmental Forestry Inspectorate of Trapani, has created a project to reconstitute the Pantelleria breed in purity, at the San Matteo pilot farm in Erice, in collaboration with the Experimental Zootechnical Institute for Sicily.
Today, on the island, there is only Ornella, the only living specimen of Pantelleria donkey in Pantelleria; the other 77 are located in the San Matteo reserve in Erice, in the Trapani area. A situation that evokes the specter of possible extinction, seen by the island's inhabitants as a big loss, also in terms of traditions. Just think that once, around the Lake of Venus, there was an annual donkey race in which the various districts participated, while a second festival was celebrated on June 24th on the streets around the port, on the occasion of St. John.
Precisely for this reason, after the establishment of the National Park of the island, the municipality of Pantelleria is studying a project to use donkeys in sustainable tourism and agriculture, bringing their role back to the center of the Pantelleria economy and, above all, welcoming them back into their natural habitat.