Emily Silburn is a recent graduate of sociology and Hannah Badham is a vet student, both are from the University of Liverpool and are recipients of The Donkey Sanctuary’s overseas travel grant. They are travelling to Mexico to work with The Donkey Sanctuary Mexico-UNAM. During this time, they will be learning about the work that The Donkey Sanctuary does in rural communities including veterinary outreach and community education programmes.
Today we travelled with the team to meet donkeys and their owners in Xochimilco, a district of Mexico City, an area with preserved architecture dating from the 16th century. Due to its protected status, plumbing is not available to take water to some of the small communities. Therefore people do not have access to water in their homes, so they either bring donkeys down to collect water or rely on others to do so.
For some of the people we saw today, selling the water they collect with donkeys to the local communities is how they make their living. The donkeys carry huge amounts of water (80 litres per journey) and remember the path they should take themselves, with some setting off ahead of their owners. We met one man whose day consists of four to five trips with four donkeys to collect and sell water. One of his donkeys was lame and wounded, and the vets provided some treatment, a new head collar and advised the owner to rest it for two weeks.
This was our first opportunity to see the work that The Donkey Sanctuary Mexico-UNAM does within communities. One of the most important aspects of this is conducting welfare assessments of every donkey possible. This enables information to be gathered about the life and work of the donkeys. It also is used as a tool to assess any wounds, medical or behavioural issues. It is important to gather this information to allow the teams to assess whether welfare of individual animals had improved but also to evaluate the most common problems within that particular community of donkeys. This enables the teams to recommend the most applicable and effective preventative treatments, for example improving harnesses or giving behavioural workshops.
The owner took the team’s advice and when he returned for his next trip he only brought the other three donkeys. While this is obviously better for the owner long term, and for the welfare of the donkey, he will have to either make even more trips in a day with the remaining donkeys, or have his earnings suffer. It is therefore important that this economic and personal impact is taken into consideration when acting, highlighting the importance of understanding the socioeconomic influences that affect donkey welfare within individual communities.