I've just got back from my visit to our project in Mexico and thought I'd share some of my experiences with you all.
I am the Veterinary Projects and Development Manager for The Donkey Sanctuary and visited Mexico with Nicole du Toit, a PhD student from University of Edinburgh, who is being funded by The Donkey Sanctuary to study dental abnormalities in donkeys.
Nicole and I spent two fantastic weeks with the Donkey Sanctuary veterinary teams in Mexico. We collected lots of data for our non-intrusive research projects surveying health problems, parasite burdens and feeding practices in a number of different locations in Mexico, including sites that our teams had never visited before.
Our first week was spent in the Mexico City area which is very dry and hot in May! The donkeys in this region carry out many essential tasks helping their owners by carrying heavy loads, being ridden and pulling carts. We were welcomed by the owners and donkeys and were lucky enough to be allowed a real insight into the lives of the donkeys and the people that rely on them. The teams in Mexico that we worked alongside carried out essential veterinary treatments whilst also helping us out with our projects.
Nicole and I saw many donkeys and for each one we checked their teeth, noted all of their problems (donkeys with problems were treated to make them more comfortable), had a look at the harnesses and any related sores on the donkeys' bodies, checked for parasites in the animals faeces, condition scored the donkeys and assessed the feed being given to the animals. The owners were very helpful and keen to tell us about their donkeys and share their ideas and learn more about donkey health care including having a look at their donkey's parasite eggs through the microscope!
Our second week was spent in the tropical region of Veracruz, the landscape in this area was a lot different to that which we saw in our first week. The area is very green with banana, lime and orange trees around every corner. The donkeys and mules in this area help their owners out in the fields and are amazingly versatile and hardy animals. The highlight of this week for me was watching a little donkey cross a rope bridge (that I was dubious of!) carrying his owner and the milk they had collected from the cattle on the other side of the river. The donkey didn't bat an eyelid! Despite my suspicion of the rope bridge we also had to cross as this was the only way of getting all of our kit to the village to be able to assess and treat the resident donkeys - I'm pleased to say that the donkey's faith in the bridge was correct!
Our time in Mexico was wonderful and we managed to survey nearly 300 donkeys. We hope that the analysis of this information will give us an insight into the main problems faced by working donkeys in Mexico and we hope to make practical suggestions to help improve nutrition, parasite control, harnessing and dental care. We look forward to telling you all about the results of our study.