A farewell to Matoluta Sanctuary in Second Life

Matoluta Sanctuary, Sartre; Inara Pey, March 2015, on Flickr Matoluta Sanctuary (Flickr), March 2015 – click any image for full size

Manatou (Ursus Broono), who along with Mz Marville, has been a driving force behind the Matoluta Sanctuary has announced the two regions on which it is located  (Hudhufushi and Sartre) are to close on or around Monday, July 20th and Tuesday July 21st, 2015.

Having opened in July 2014, Matoluta Sanctuary was established with a unique aim in mind: to offer people the opportunity to engage in equine role-play (i.e. actually taking on a horse avatar), and to learn about the plight of the Colonial Spanish Horse on the North American continent –  and in doing so, donate to the ongoing conservation of these horses.

Matoluta Sanctuary, Sartre; Inara Pey, July 2014, on FlickrMatoluta Sanctuary (Flickr), July 2014

The Colonial Spanish Horse, perhaps more familiarly known as the Spanish Mustang,  is descended from the original Iberian horse stock brought to America from Spain, and are one of only a very few genetically unique horse breeds worldwide. Following their arrival in North America, some of the breed escaped into the wild. In time, due to their nature and abilities, they became the preferred mount of the Great Plains tribes of native Americans. Unfortunately, in more recent times their numbers have greatly reduced,  and the breed’s extinction status is regarded as critical.

To assist in the preservation of the breed, donations made when visiting Matoluta Sanctuary go to Return to Freedom, an organisation dedicated to “preserving the freedom, diversity, and habitat of America’s wild horses through sanctuary, education, and conservation, while enriching the human spirit through direct experience with the natural world”.  Return to Freedom is fully aware of the activities at Matoluta, and representatives from the organisation have been into Second Life to  witness activities in the regions first-hand.

Manatou (Ursus Broono) at Matoluta Sanctuary
Manatou (Ursus Broono) at Matoluta Sanctuary, July 2015

Since opening, Matoluta has evolved, both in terms of its expansion to a second region in September 2014, and in terms of activities offered: equine care, conservation awareness, special events aimed at raising donations for Return to Freedom, and so on. However, while both Manatou  and Mz Marville have met the cost of the regions directly in order to ensure donations go to Return to Freedom, the situation has been gradually changing, prompting the decision to close the regions.

“We’ve had good traffic since we opened,” Manatou informed me as we discussed the decision, “but to be honest, it has slackened off to the point where we’re better off donating the money we spend on tier directly to the charity, rather than relying just on donations.”

Matoluta Sanctuary, July 2015
Matoluta Sanctuary, July 2015

Not that he is in any way blaming the situation on a lack of traffic. “It has been helpful in encouraging people become aware of the need to preserve wild horses,” he said. “It has led to others to join in with giving aid, so it has surely been of worth.”

Nor does it mean the end of in-world activities related to equine preservation, as Manatou informed me. “We will still do activities to raise money to help wild horses; we’ll open up a special region a few times a year for this, most likely once a quarter. That way we can continue involving people in raising money to benefit these efforts of preservation, and keep awareness of the need to preserve wild horses in people’s minds. Return to Freedom is very conscientious about how they allocate funds, most of every cent they receive go towards rescue efforts, very little goes towards administration.”

Matoluta Sanctuary and Bay; Inara Pey, September 2014, on FlickrMatoluta Sanctuary (Flickr), September 2014

In the meantime, Matoluta Sanctuary is still open to visitors, with the regions due to close, as noted, on Monday, July 20th (Hudhufushi) and Tuesday July 21st (Sartre)  and might be around a little bit beyond that. So if you want to visit them before they go and enjoy their natural beauty, do make the time over the weekend. And, if you’re so minded, feel free to make a donation towards Return to Freedom’s work.

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