During an equine welfare conference last year, our team met an interesting Tunisian vet called Jaber Belkhiria who has been working to link city vets with rural communities to provide veterinary care in the more remote areas. Since the conference, our team has been in regular contact with Jaber, offering advice on approaching communities of donkey owners and providing educational materials. Networking is a key step towards reaching the 50 million donkeys living around the world, and this is just one example of how valuable it can be to exchange knowledge with others interested in improving the lives of donkeys.
Having trained as a vet in Tunisia, Jaber and his colleague Tricia Andrade have been awarded a Poverty Alleviation through Sustainable Solutions grant by the University of California. He and Tricia are currently in Tunisia conducting research on the role of Tunisian donkeys and we have been enjoying reading their blog following the work they are doing to help donkeys in rural communities.
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Friday, August 29, 2014
We spent the day with Malek Lakhoua at his farm, Domaine Sidi Mrayah, where he has over 2000 olive trees on 14 hectares. He primarily makes organic oil olive but has other products like donkey milk soap and essential oils. He keeps 3-5 donkeys and has volunteered at NGO veterinary events for donkeys. He is a human medical doctor but his first passion is his family farm where he hopes to develop agri-tourism. He is interested in helping us improve donkey welfare and connect us with his local community. We agreed a good place to start was at his farm to show him some of the things we wanted to do for the donkeys of Tunisia.
Malek had a veterinarian (who was unfamiliar with farriery) do a little hoof care about a year ago on Cleopatra. Fortunately, the donkeys are used to Malek's frequent hands-on care and they all behaved like fancy well-trained horses – evidence donkeys often get a bad reputation for misbehaving, but in fact they are quite agreeable creatures.
The hooves were all long, chipped and very hard. We limited our care this first visit to just the front feet and were modest in the amount of hoof we removed because we did not want to stress the donkeys or cause lameness. Dolchita had a chunk of plant stubble wedged into a crack in the center of her toe (top right photo) demonstrating the importance of checking hooves frequently before problems arise.
Next project - the teeth! Malek said these donkeys had never had bits in their mouths and the teeth had never been addressed. Equines develop sharp points on their teeth which can diminish proper grinding of food and cause sores in the mouth. These points can be filed off to create a smooth bevelled edge and more effective grinding.