Once a week, a team of The Donkey Sanctuary's vets based in Mexico City battle their way through the thick heavy city traffic for three hours to reach Coacalco rubbish dump, where tatty, tired, donkeys desperately need first aid and some 'TLC'.
These 'rubbish donkeys' help local people earn a living, 365 days a year, by carrying carts piled high with rubbish. Their journey begins by transporting rubbish collected from the streets and nearby houses in the city and taking it to the dump.
The donkey owners then sort through the rubbish to find any recyclable plastics, such as coca-cola bottles. They then re-load their donkeys’ carts in the hope that they can turn the plastic into cash by selling it to local factories to make dolls and puzzles.
The donkeys carry huge burdens and the work takes its toll. The vets from The Donkey Sanctuary’s Mexico project are on hand to give the donkeys a full health check and to treat any harnessing wounds, dental problems, hoof problems and abscesses, that they regularly encounter, and in some more unfortunate cases, will put a donkey to sleep on-site.
The donkeys will rarely have a name - they are simply a tool for the people to do their work.
Carlos Juarez Rojas, one of the Sanctuary’s vets, says: “We were recently contacted by some locals who had found a donkey that had collapsed at the dump; she was painfully thin and covered in sores and had only just given birth to her new foal!
“We arrived just in time on this occasion and were able to give the foal the life saving treatment it needed - its umbilical cord had a terrible abscess which had spread to its liver.
“With a second extremely thin foal by its mother’s side we decided that these donkeys should be nursed back to health at the University of Mexico (UNAM) where we are based.
“I certainly don’t mind travelling through all the traffic to get to the dump as we can help save the donkeys who are suffering here.
“Many donkeys arrive in awful conditions but we are on hand to help relieve their pain. It’s very rewarding to see a donkey’s health improve after we’ve treated it."
Veterinary care, advice and support on donkey welfare is provided to the donkey owners who are dependent on these hardworking animals for their livelihoods.