A chance encounter at Nairobi’s Wilson airport has just highlighted to me the strength of Donkey Sanctuary Kenya’s (DSK) networking and advocacy for donkey welfare. I am currently at about 22,000 feet, heading out to DSK’s centre on Lamu island with Josiah, the Education Officer from DSK, and after a stunning take-off across Nairobi National Park (think of an aerial view of giraffe and zebra herds – quite a treat), our tiny plane is flying mercifully smoothly.
While we were waiting for the plane to fuel up in Nairobi, Josiah spotted another passenger arrive at the gate – none other than His Excellency Issa Timamy, the governor of Lamu County (who is currently nibbling on an Air Kenya inflight scone a couple of seats in front of me). Josiah seized the opportunity immediately and took me over to meet him; a very busy and important man, he is not an easy person to pin down. Mr Timamy was delighted to see us and expressed his delight at the work of DSK in Lamu, remarking that no other charity or organisation was interested in the plight of the many working donkeys on the island. Lamu, sometimes called ‘Donkey Island’, was one of the first places Dr S. began her international work back in 1987 after discovering the poor condition of the donkeys while on holiday on the island. It was clear that the years of good communication and advocacy work between DSK and the local government has created a very amicable relationship and the governor showed heartfelt gratitude for the work of DSK and its supporters.
But what will stay with me most was the governor asking about the possibility of his office working with DSK to find a suitable night-time holding area for the island’s donkeys to avoid accidents while roaming free and to reduce the number of colic cases from donkeys eating plastic bags. Looking at prevention rather than cure, he said: ‘When you sleep under a net, you prevent malaria. What about the donkeys? They deserve to be protected from harm at night too.’
This is an important step in improving the lives of Lamu’s donkeys. The governor’s ideas and comments will be taken back to DSK’s head office for discussion and planning, and I’m excited to learn more in the island over the next few days. Our brief encounter today was only a snapshot for me into the ongoing work that the DSK do but it was great to meet a community leader who put the needs of the donkeys so high on his agenda which, I’m sure, has had a lot to do with DSK’s work with him.