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A handy tool for welfare assessment

It isn’t always easy to for us to give a thorough assessment of a donkey’s welfare status, especially when we’re working internationally and sometimes need to make a rapid assessment of a large group. What kind of things should you look for? The ‘five freedoms’ is a useful way of checking whether a population is ‘free from’ things like hunger, thirst, distress and pain, and are ‘free to’ express natural behaviour. While this can work for farm animals where all the conditions are controlled and known, it becomes a lot more challenging to look for an absence of hunger, distress, etc.

Alex takes part in a welfare assessment in Tanzania

Give and take in Tanzania

‘Quick! The air from the donkey is going out!’ cried the Maasai security guard with genuine concern, pointing towards our training area with his long stick. Slightly panicked about what kind of hyperventilating mess of a donkey I was going to find, I dashed towards the venue.

Handling demonstration at the harness workshop in Tanzania

The sand-collectors of Bela-Bela

The town of Bela-Bela (meaning ‘boiling-boiling’ in Tswana language) in South Africa takes its name from the hot springs around which the town was based. The town’s baths have now been replaced by agriculture as the mainstay of the local economy and the town is growing on the back of the maize (locally known as ‘mealies’) and other products grown in the area. This growth means more construction and, where rivers once flowed near town, people dig sand to transport to construction sites using donkeys for making cement.

Samson teaches Carolina about donkey teeth

Walking in the shoes of people who rely on donkeys

It isn’t easy for outsiders to really understand the lives of donkeys and the people who rely on them. And without understanding and building a relationship with local communities, it is next-to-impossible to bring about improvements in welfare that will continue after the outsiders have moved on. With the Donkey Sanctuary Kenya’s (DSK) team based in Nakuru town, I spent today with the people of Kagoto village who rely on donkeys as we walked in their shoes to see how their lives, and those of their donkeys, are interwoven.

Walking out of the Rift Valley


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