A donkey lies on the muddy ground in obvious pain, her abdomen swollen like a balloon. A small crowd of people gather around, unsure what to do.
This was the disturbing sight our CEO David Cook came across during a recent visit to a clinic funded by The Donkey Sanctuary in Ethiopia to help the donkeys working in Merkato - one of the largest grain markets on the African continent - located in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. Donkeys provide a crucial means of transport here, carrying heavy bags of grain between wholesale and retail customers.
David was in Ethiopia visiting Donkey Sanctuary-funded projects across the country, including the inauguration of the Donkey Welfare Training Centre in Alage (follow the link below to read more about his visit).
Accompanying David in Merkato was Animal Health Assistant Chala, who works at the clinic.
It’s amazing, I didn’t expect my donkey to recover.
“Chala immediately took control, arranging for the donkey to receive some pain relief so that she could be transported to the clinic just a couple of hundred yards away,” David says. “All of the donkey owners know of the clinic and the fantastic work they do there.”
The donkeys that visit the clinic suffer from all kinds of ailments, including back sores, hoof lameness, hyena bites and diseases like tetanus. The donkey lying in agony at David’s feet was suffering colic from an intestinal obstruction. After being given pain relief and medicine to loosen her bowls, she was able to pass several plastic bags and began to recover.
“Colic is a very common problem in donkeys who eat plastic bags while scavenging for food,” Chala says.
A big part of The Donkey Sanctuary in Ethiopia’s work is not only to provide veterinary treatment, but also to educate donkey owners in how to deliver better care to their donkeys themselves. For this purpose the team sat down with the donkey’s owner Ali Menegesha, who had been on his way to the clinic when the donkey collapsed.
Ali, a father of four, has used donkeys to deliver goods in Merkato for 30 years. For each day the donkey’s work earns him 60-70 Birr (around £2). Donkeys are his only source of income.
Chala spent time explaining to Ali the dangers of allowing his donkeys to eat things like plastic bags and fertiliser sacks.
Speaking from the clinic a short time later, Chala gave everyone the good news.
“After staying three days at the clinic the donkey is completely cured,” he says.
Donkey owner Ali left the clinic full of praise for the team’s work.
“It’s amazing, I didn’t expect my donkey to recover” he says.
Completely transformed from the animal David had seen close to death just days before, the donkey trotted out of the clinic with a new lease of life. Through the work of The Donkey Sanctuary in Ethiopia, more donkeys like this are getting to their feet again, and more owners know how to help them.