Much of our work in Mexico consists of routine visits to communities of donkey, horse and mule owners, to give veterinary treatments and hold community workshops and education sessions. But earlier this year, they were called upon to help in a more unusual situation.
The Popocatepetl volcano in the Puebla region, about 45 miles (72km) from Mexico City, is one of the most active in Mexico. It’s a stunning sight, with a plume of smoke constantly rising from its crater. In April this year it became more volatile, with eruptions of ash and water, and the regional government decided to take action to ensure that the local communities would be able to evacuate the area if necessary.
The communities living near the volcano are mainly poor farmers using donkeys, horses and mules for agricultural work and transport, so any evacuation needed to cater for these animals. The Donkey Sanctuary Mexico has an excellent reputation for its work with animals and communities, so the regional government invited the team to join an emergency commission helping to prepare them to move. Our Mexican country manager, Mariano Hernandez Gil, told me, “One of the main issues had to do with the handling and driving of this kind of animal, and they are aware that we do this in a gentle and safe manner.”
The whole of the Mexico team went to visit the communities at risk. Our vet Luis treated hundreds of animals for parasite infestations, skin wounds and respiratory diseases, while farrier Angel trimmed their hooves. The community education team helped organise these activities and talked about the need for the animals to be in good health, in case everyone had to travel away from their homes.
So far, the volcano hasn’t erupted, but the team remain ready to respond if the risk level increases and the government asks for any further help.
We thought this was an impressive testimony to the excellence of our team’s work and reputation in Mexico. It’s good that the regional government not only acknowledged the importance of catering for donkeys and mules in its disaster management plans, but also recognised and drew upon the specialist skills of The Donkey Sanctuary Mexico to help them in this potentially dangerous situation.