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Alex Mayers's blog

The heroes of the Eastern Cape

The complexity of South African society makes community partnership particularly challenging. Donkeys in this part of the Rainbow Nation are the victims of undervalued status, misunderstandings between their owners and other members of society, extreme poverty and high levels of crime in the areas where they live and work. Competing with cows, goats and other animals for grazing land, donkeys often wander out of crowded townships in search of food and are sometimes attacked by dogs and people with horrific results.

Alex with Charlie

Donkeys come first, second and third

Following the spirit and words of Dr Elisabeth Svendsen and The Donkey Sanctuary UK, the Eseltjiesrus Donkey Sanctuary of McGregor in South Africa operates so that donkeys come first, second and third. I’ve been lucky enough this week to spend a few days getting to know the Eseltjiesrus team, their important work and how our longstanding collaboration has helped them to make a real difference to the lives of donkeys in and around the southern tip of Africa.

Me enjoying some donkey cuddles

Helping Zambians care for their donkeys

The fertile, agricultural districts of Chibombo and Chisamba in central Zambia have a relatively recent relationship with donkeys. Supplied in large numbers by the government in the early 2000s, few people had experience of looking after them properly. For the last five years, The Donkey Sanctuary has partnered with Mwamfumba, an agricultural co-operative that fills this knowledge gap, improves the welfare of Zambian donkeys and supports the people who rely on them.

An owner with his donkey enjoying some shade

Uniting for Moroccan mules

Deep in the valleys of the High Atlas Mountains to the east of Marrakech, young and intrepid British students start their adventurous expeditions by meeting the mules and muleteers who will accompany them along their route. The trips, run by expedition providers based in the UK, give a unique opportunity for the students to challenge themselves, learn new skills for life and work and have an unforgettable Moroccan experience. Sadly for the mules, however, the experience is rarely so positive.

'The Hand' welfare tool used by The Donkey Sanctuary that was introduced at the meeting

Sowing seeds for the future in the shadow of the Pyramids

Around the Pyramids of Giza, there is a concrete wall capped with a fence that divides the past from the present. On one side of the wall, the Sphinx gazes passively down on a surprisingly tourist-free site; visitors still seem to be too nervous after the revolution to be flocking back in large numbers. Up against the city side of the wall, there are dozens of stables where the horses (and the occasional camel) used for tourists at the Pyramids are kept.

A young lad with his donkey


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