Working as Welfare Adviser in the North of Scotland presents many challenges. Remote locations, single track roads, no mobile signal and in the Highlands the weather can change in minutes from bright sunshine to thick mist.
A recent relinquishment of 4 donkeys however produced a new set of challenges. The donkeys were situated on a remote island of Shetland. The relinquishment came about due to the owner being in the autumn of his years and having failing health. Due to this it had been decided to sell the croft and hopefully move to the mainland. It was a sad decision to part with the donkeys but wishing to ensure their future contacted The Donkey Sanctuary.
The first consideration for this relinquishment was to determine the donkeys were of an age and fit enough to travel. We also considered if a permanent home could be found on the Island, however, the owner had already considered this and discussed with the local vet. There are no other donkeys on the Shetland Island and the locals tend to keep more hardy breeds such as Shetlands and Highland Ponies so this was not an option.
Fortunately the local vet had made a visit to the Island recently and had seen the donkeys, this enabled our Welfare Vet, Anna Harrison, to have a discussion regarding the health of the donkeys.
The go ahead given, I then had to investigate how to transport the donkeys from the remote Island of Testra to Aberdeen. This would involve road transport, 3 ferries and timing to catch each ferry. This was where the owner played a vital role, his familiarity with livestock and ferry movement to and from the Islands ensured we could co-ordinate the timing to catch each ferry, he would also accompany the donkeys to the last ferry at Lerwick ensuring their wellbeing. I had arranged for the local vet to meet the donkeys at Lerwick Port and check them before boarding them onto the Aberdeen ferry.
However, we were not out of the woods yet. The ferries can be cancelled at short notice by the captain who may deem the swell too great to sail. Also we had a short window of time to move the donkeys as priority later in August is given to livestock, sheep and cattle coming off the Islands for winter as well as the weather changing.
Everything in place the donkeys left home at 10.30am to begin their journey, they would not reach Aberdeen until 7am the next morning. The local vet contacted me late that afternoon to advise the donkeys had arrived at Lerwick and were all ok and would be boarding the Aberdeen ferry. On this ferry the donkeys are transferred into a livestock container which is bedded down with straw, feed and water, plenty of room for them to rest and lie down.
All went well and the ferry docked 12 hours later at Aberdeen Port, they were transferred into the holding area called the layerage. I had taken food to the dock with me as my first concern was to ensure they were not stressed or had stopped eating. The ginger biscuits I brought went down a treat!
The other consideration had been the transport from the docks to the holding base, two trailers which would mean separating the group or a horsebox that they could go on together. The horsebox was the best option, and they all loaded happily.
On arrival at the holding base it was a lovely sunny day and I felt these boys needed a reward so Soloman, Sandy, Patrick and Coco were let into the small top paddock where they headed straight for the sand patch and enjoyed numerous rolls. They were even pushing each other out of the way to have a turn!
The donkeys have settled well and seem none the worse for their epic journey, in fact if they could talk, I think they would say it was quite an adventure.