“I work with donkeys because they are the animal that people have forgotten,“ says Ezekiel Mchele, the Donkey Welfare Officer at Meru Animal Welfare Organisation (MAWO) in Tanzania.
The Donkey Sanctuary has been the major supporter of MAWO’s work to improve the lives of working donkeys in the Maasai lands of northern Tanzania for several years. However, the Maasai communities are far from MAWO’s office and are very spread out to allow their animals sufficient space to graze, so the team decided to recruit someone to live and work within the community and dedicate themselves to improving the lives of donkeys. Ezekiel was the successful applicant and is fitting in really well.
Having studied for a two-year diploma in animal health in Tengeru (near Arusha) at one of Tanzania’s six Livestock Training Institutes, Ezekiel already had a fair idea about the needs and welfare of donkeys; he learnt how to feed them, how to treat them, how to handle and how to provide for their other needs. After graduating, he was employed for four years by World Vision in Shinyanga, Tanzania to teach people how to take care of their cows and donkeys which are used there for cultivation. When he heard about the vacancy at MAWO in June 2014, he jumped at the chance.
”I really like harness work in particular. Improved harnesses make a very great difference to a donkey’s welfare and it is really rewarding to make such a real difference to their lives,” he said. Ezekiel has adapted a pack-saddle design commonly used by The Donkey Sanctuary in other areas to make it relevant and accepted by the Maasai women, who use donkeys to bring water to their families and other livestock. As he learns more about the community structure, he is also keen to work more with the elders who can take the lead in making a lasting difference to the lives of donkeys.
Ezekiel’s message for donkey owners is: ”Take care of your donkeys so that they can enjoy their lives. They do so much for you and so you need to do the same for them”. Hats off to Ezekiel, the ambassador for donkeys in the Maasai lands!