This week I joined over 200 Kenyan school children, local officials, donkey owners, users and supporters – not to mention a full brass band – on a march to celebrate National Donkey Day. And it was quite a sight!
Coinciding with my visit to our partners in Kenya, I joined The Donkey Sanctuary Kenya and other local groups on the streets of Ongata Rongai, on the outskirts of Nairobi, to raise awareness of welfare issues and seek local government support. Ongata Rongai is a hot spot for donkey welfare issues, with ill-fitting harnesses and mishandling of donkeys two of the main issues. But increasingly, the area is facing the problem of donkey theft for meat, which is having a serious impact on the animals and those that depend on them. The Donkey Sanctuary Kenya team has been working in collaboration with the Kenyan Veterinary Association and other groups to improve harnessing and attitudes towards donkeys within communities – and they have seen marked results. But the thefts have remained an issue.
As our noisy group made their way along the two-mile stretch of the Nairobi suburb waving banners and placards, the working donkeys we passed seemed to give their approval with loud brays of support. At the end of the route, some harness and behaviour training had been arranged, which was attracting quite a crowd. A short series of speeches and talks were also given, followed by the best news of the day – the local governor agreed (to rapturous applause) that a piece of land would be given to donkey owners so that they could keep their donkeys safe from thieves at night. This will be a huge step forwards for protecting donkey welfare in the district and the high profile of the event means the community’s donkeys are finally being given the recognition and attention they deserve.