Taking advantage of a rest from their toils, around 80 donkeys sleep under the hot afternoon sun in scrub land outside Kikatiti market, a hub of activity on the edge of the Usa River in Tanzania. From a distance, their relaxed demeanours suggest a degree of contentment, but a closer look reveals a different story. Many have debilitating wounds caused by ropes which are used instead of harnesses to tie heavy sacks to their backs. Many are thin, and appear dull and listless. Some donkeys have had their ears slit for identification purposes. Most are tethered to rocks with no access to shade or water.
A quick glance won’t provide solutions to what’s really going on, which is why staff from the Arusha Society for the Protection of Animals (ASPA) funded by the Donkey Sanctuary are here.
Their task is not easy. The donkeys have gathered close together, making individual welfare assessments difficult. Alex from our International Department commented after a recent training & monitoring visit: “When the donkeys are examined, it’s very difficult to find the owner. When an owner is found, he is suspicious and doesn’t want to talk.”
Instant solutions won’t work here, which is why ASPA are hiring a new field officer funded by the Donkey Sanctuary who will work long term with the community to improve to donkey welfare. Around 75 per cent of ASPA’s work is related to donkeys. Staff make contact with donkey owners and handlers in markets mostly in the Arusha area to improve communication and reduce beatings.
The new field officer job at Kikatiti market will involve making close contacts with local people so their work with donkeys can be thoroughly understood. Improving the physical conditions for donkeys will be a crucial part of their role, which means encouraging owners to give the resting donkeys access to food and water. They will also make welfare-friendly pack saddles and harness, and encourage all the donkey handlers to use them.
It will be a long and difficult job, but one which will ensure contentment is not just a dream for the sleeping donkeys outside Kikatiti market.