Emergency teams from The Donkey Sanctuary in Mexico and the UK were recently dispatched to care for 700 donkeys awaiting slaughter for their skins. On their visit, they were moved by Ana and Cavalheiro, two donkeys fighting for their lives.

The Donkey Sanctuary recently reported on the dire situation of 700 donkeys kept in an overcrowded holding pen in Brazil. The donkeys were destined for slaughter so that their skin could be harvested to produce gelatine for a traditional Chinese medicine, Ejiao.

Given the recent criminalisation of the donkey skin trade in Brazil, however, the donkeys being transported were resigned to holding pens in the absence of open slaughterhouses. One such donkey was Ana.

Hope against the odds: Ana’s fight

When our team encountered Ana, a dangerously small and malnourished donkey, they set out fearing for the worst. She had collapsed from exhaustion and appeared unable to move.

In spite of their fears, the team sprung in to action in the hope of saving the donkey’s life. Ana was very weak, yet she was receptive to the team’s help and eventually they managed to raise her to her feet.

Once Ana was up, she was able to start walking with some assistance from our team – an enormously encouraging sign, and a moment of hope within their bleak environment. Vet Omar gave her a closer inspection, and decided that she would benefit from being given fluids via nasogastric intubation.

Omar and Frede carried out the procedure, which was successful. Ana was released, and the team were overwhelmed with joy to see her walking off independently to re-join her friends. With the benefit of youth on her side, she immediately began to eat hay with the others, her condition looking much improved.

Omar says: “This is exactly what we are looking for after performing a nasogastric intubation – a donkey in this condition with no discomfort, and no pain. She can keep eating immediately after the procedure.”

The impact of the skin trade: Cavalheiro’s story

Eduardo Santurtun, The Donkey Sanctuary’s regional director of the Americas, was deeply concerned when he came across Cavalheiro. Like Ana, he too had collapsed, and had sunken into a muddy ditch. When Eduardo got closer, however, the donkey kicked out his legs in fear and started to struggle. He was barely alive, and frightened by the situation - but he hadn't given up his fight yet.

The team had to move fast, so they manoeuvred the helpless donkey into a more comfortable position on the bank in order to assess him. Cavalheiro was, however, too weak to get up or even hold up his head for long without assistance.

Cavalherio found in mud, Brazil
Cavalheiro, Brazil holding pen
Cavalheiro receiving treatment

It quickly became clear that Cavalheiro was very ill and that his condition was unlikely to improve.

Omar, a vet from Mexico, said: “This donkey is just too bad, so sadly we have to euthanise him. It’s best for the donkey, because he will not recover.”

The euthanasia was a quick, but terribly sad, process. The team sat around him, speaking softly, and Eduardo held Cavalheiro’s head in his final moments.

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