El Paraíso del Burro

Who we are

Who are we?


Marleen Verhoef, 06/2009

My name is Marleen Verhoef. I was born in the Netherlands in 1944. Together with many volunteers we have set up a donkey sanctuary in Arobes, in the eastern part of Asturias. We started in September 2007 and we now look after between 20 and 30 donkeys and mules together with a couple of horses  and various dogs and cats. The donkeys currently have 4 stables at their disposal.

Why build a donkey sanctuary in Asturias?

In the recent past Asturian donkeys or mules were used on almost all farms to work in the daily agricultural practice. Now, tractors have taken over most of the work and these noble animals are killed off or left alone somewhere in a field or stable. They often have hoof and leg problems or are overfed with old bread. Our main aim is to give them a well-deserved old-age 'pension'.

I grew up in the company of animals. They formed part of my family, as friends, therefore the realisation of how we humans treat animals – especially in the large-scale meat and milk industry, without any respect for their needs, came as a shock. Since then I've been vegetarian and have wanted to contribute to animal welfare.

Later in life, Donkeys stole my heart and so did the impressive nature of Asturias and the Picos de Europa Mountains. So here I am, in Arobes, taking care of a lot of wonderful animals, together with many wonderful helpers.

What kind of support do we get?

Individuals and organisations that care about the welfare of our animals financially support the donkeys in our donkey paradise. Some Dutch animal lovers, united in the 'Stichting tot Steun Ezelopvang Noord-Spanje' (Foundation for the support of donkey sanctuary northern Spain) contribute toward the (high) costs of veterinary, farrier and dental treatments. We have also now formed our own Association here in Spain for which we have some sponsors and regular contributors.  It is called "Asociacion Protectora de El Paraiso del Burro" and it is a charity registered with the Principado de Asturias (the Principality of Asturias) under charity number 9735.

Other contributors are the many volunteers, who come to Arobes to help out with the daily routine and with the many restoration projects. Without their support our work for the Asturian donkeys would not be possible!

In Spain we co-operate with the voluntary workers of the dog sanctuary in Infiesto, in the Asociacion Protectora Animales de Oriente (Association for the protection of animals in eastern Asturias).