donkey

The human-animal relationship and its influence in our culture: the case of donkeys

Donkeys (Equus asinus) face a global crisis. Their health, welfare, and even their local survival are compromised as the demand for their skins increases. Such demand for donkey skins aims to supply the ejiao industry. Ejiao is a traditional remedy made from the collagen of donkey skins. Some people believe it has medicinal properties. It is estimated that the ejiao industry currently requires approximately 4.8 million donkey skins per year. Although the future of the donkeys is still uncertain, we must guarantee a life free from suffering to the animals under our responsibility. The trade of donkey skins also undermines the cultural role of donkeys. Donkeys have developed an essential role in Brazil, especially in the Northeast region of the country, carrying on their backs construction materials, water, and food, and, as a consequence, helping people build cities in the deepest hinterland. The close relationship between people and donkeys affords donkeys a unique place in the local culture. This central importance has been recognized by Brazilian artists throughout history. We have many examples of songs, books, “cordeis” (typical Brazilian literature), poems, documentaries, movies, woodcuts, paintings, and sculptures, created to honor this important actor. Here we describe some examples of this human-donkey relationship, and its influence on our culture.

Volume
58
Publication date
Research output

Donkey skin trade: is it sustainable to slaughter donkeys for their skin?

Donkeys (Equus asinus) face a global crisis. The health, welfare, and even survival of donkeys are being compromised as the demand for their skins increases. It is driven by the production of ejiao, a traditional Chinese remedy believed by some to have medicinal properties. It is estimated that the ejiao industry currently requires approximately 4.8 million donkey skins per year. Since there is no productive chain for donkey skin production outside of China, the activity is extractive and has resulted in the decimation of donkeys. Gestation is 12 months in donkeys, increasing the risk of extinction if such practices are not controlled. In this scenario, the donkeys are collected (purchased for low prices, stolen, and collected from the side of the roads) and are then often transported for long distances, usually without water, food, or rest. The trade, in Brazil, poses significant biosecurity risks, particularly because examinations are rarely conducted and therefore infectious diseases, such as glanders and infectious anemia, remain undetected. Furthermore, in chronic stress situations, the immune system is suppressed, increasing the biosecurity risk, especially because donkeys are a silent carrier of diseases. Rarely there is traceability with animals from different origins being put together in “fake farms”, before being delivered to slaughterhouses. The opportunistic strategy of collecting animals, or buying for low prices, keeping them without access to food and veterinary assistance, is what makes this trade profitable. Our experience in donkey welfare and the global skin trade suggest that it will be enormously challenging and cost-prohibitive to run a trade at the standards required to be considered humane, sustainable, and safe. Although donkeys are being blamed for the involvement in road accidents, it is not an ethical solution to maintain this trade as an alternative. Moreover, the ecological role of donkeys in native ecosystems has not been elucidated, and some studies indicate they could even have a positive effect. Regardless of the future the donkeys will have; we must guarantee a life with the least dignity to the animals under our responsibility.

Volume
58
Publication date
Research output

Science and knowledge of free-roaming donkeys - a critical review

The emergence of free-roaming donkey (Equus asinus) populations globally has brought novel challenges for conservationists, land managers, and those concerned about animal welfare. We provide a review of the scientific literature pertaining to the place and role of free-roaming donkeys from 1950 until 2020. Using quantitative and qualitative techniques, namely categorical and thematic analysis and critical discourse analysis, to review >100 articles, we critically examine the logics and rationales that are used to either support or denounce donkey presence in particular landscapes and discuss their place and role in different ecological contexts. Free-roaming donkeys are largely understudied and clouded by dichotomous points of view, different conservation agendas, and the presence of other species in donkey habitat. There is an important need for more in-depth, site-specific studies on free-roaming donkeys that draw on tools and techniques from across the social and natural sciences. Such efforts would offer a richer, more holistic, and comprehensive picture of free-roaming donkeys that consider both human and animal perspectives and the wider environment. This has important implications for generating long-term sustainable management solutions for free-roaming donkeys. © 2021 The Authors. The Journal of Wildlife Management published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of The Wildlife Society.

Publication date
Research output

Guide to common skin disorders in donkeys

Background: Although they are a minority equine species in the UK, donkeys are both much loved companion animals and conversely frequently neglected and suffer poor welfare. Skin disease is a common complaint and often presents at an advanced state due to a number of factors, including inadequate owner knowledge, infrequent checking and grooming, and a lack of concern for the welfare of the affected donkey, alongside donkey-specific factors, such as a difference in hair coat from horses.

Aim of the article: This article covers the main presenting signs that veterinary surgeons see in donkeys with skin disease, and offers guidance on diagnosis and treatment options.

Journal
Volume
43
Issue
6
Start page
318
End page
327
Publication date
Country

A review of laminitis in the donkey

Laminitis is a commonly occurring, painful condition of the foot that can have a major impact on the welfare of affected donkeys. When faced with a donkey suspected to have laminitis, the approach is broadly similar to that in the horse, however there are certain factors unique to donkeys that this article aims to highlight including: the differences in use, behaviour, anatomy, therapy and management.

Publication date
Country

Suspensory ligament desmitis caused by onchocerca sp. in three donkeys

Three donkeys were presented with progressive lameness and distal suspensory ligament breakdown in multiple limbs. Treatment with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs was only partially effective and eventually the donkeys were euthanized due to further progression of the lameness and concerns for their welfare. At necropsy, the distal part of the suspensory ligaments in multiple limbs, including the suspensory ligament branches, was markedly thickened, enlarged, and mottled white and brown on cut section. In one case, adult Onchocerca sp. nematodes were grossly identified embedded within the suspensory ligaments. Histopathologic examination revealed chronic, multifocal to coalescing, moderate to severe, lymphoplasmacytic, eosinophilic, and fibrosing desmitis and tendinitis with intralesional, coiled adult nematodes of Onchocerca sp., accompanied by osseous and cartilaginous metaplasia. To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first histopathologic description of suspensory ligament desmitis and tendinitis associated with Onchocerca sp. in donkeys.

Volume
58
Issue
2
Start page
401
End page
404
Publication date
Country

Oesophageal obstruction in a donkey due to mediastinal lymphadenitis caused by mycobacterium avium complex

Mycobacterial infections are rare in horses, donkeys and mules. Although there are a few reports in horses, mycobacterial disease is poorly documented in the donkey. Mycobacterial infection of equine species typically affects the alimentary tract, causing granulomatous enterocolitis resulting in diarrhoea and chronic weight loss, while lymph nodes and liver may also be affected. We now document recurrent oesophageal obstruction, secondary to cranial mediastinal lymphadenitis caused by Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC). To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of MAC infection in a donkey in the UK.

Volume
185
Start page
66
End page
71
Publication date
Country

Free-roaming donkeys and their role in ecosystem health

Status
Researcher(s)

The emergence of free-roaming donkey populations globally has brought novel challenges for conservationists, land managers and animal welfarists alike. Donkeys (Equus asinus) are classified as ‘alien’ in sixteen countries where they are listed as being introduced by humans (IUCN-GISD 2020), and considered ‘invasive’ in countries where they are non-native and have potential to act as a threat to native biodiversity and natural ecosystems (McNeely et al. 2001). As non-native species, free-roaming donkeys are often framed as illegitimate and ‘out of place’. In places where they are deemed too numerous, donkeys are assigned labels such as ‘pest’ or ‘vermin’, further entrenching ideas of illegitimacy (Bough 2006, 2016; Celermajer and Wallach 2019). However, there has been limited research on the interface between science, policy and management for free-roaming donkeys, including the kinds of logics and rationales that are used to either support or denounce their presence in different geographical and ecological contexts.

Methodology

We used both qualitative and quantitative techniques to review over 100 scientific articles, which were identified using a snowball technique and key search terms; manually checking each article to ensure its relevance. For the quantitative analysis, articles were classified under the following categories: Publication date; Country of study; Discipline of article; Type of article (field-based; literature-based or management-based); Biome (of study area); Focus of impact (whether impacts where measured/discussed with specific reference to donkeys, or for wider groups of species); Evidencing impact (whether an article measured environmental impact, discussed environmental impact or referred to presence only). All articles were qualitatively reviewed using NVivo (v.12.0) for categorical and thematic analysis as well as critical discourse analysis. This involved the identification of different issues that regularly appeared in the literature, ascribing fine-grade codes or ‘topic codes’. We then worked from topics to themes, systematically coding these themes while reflecting on meanings, positionality and underlying agendas. We also assessed the overall framing of the article, examining the extent to which donkeys were framed in positive, negative or neutral terms.

Aims

The project includes an extensive review of the scientific literature pertaining to the place and role of free-roaming donkeys. We critically examined the logics and rationales that are used to either support or denounce donkey presence in particular landscapes and discuss their ‘ecological belonging’ in relation to such contexts. Our findings indicate that free-roaming donkeys are largely understudied, misunderstood and clouded by dichotomous points of view, different conservation agendas and the presence of other ‘higher value’ species in the same habitats. We identify a critical need for more in-depth, site-specific studies on free-roaming donkeys, using tools and techniques from across the social and natural sciences. Such efforts would offer a richer, more holistic and comprehensive picture of free-roaming donkeys, considering both human and animal perspectives and the wider environment. This has important implications for generating long-term sustainable management solutions for free-roaming donkeys.

How free-roaming donkeys are framed positively and negatively in different global agendas

Status
Researcher(s)

For thousands of years, the donkey (Equus asinus) has played an essential role in human society, underpinning the earliest forms of civilisation, facilitating critical trade networks, contributing to agricultural development, construction and mining. However, with the rise of motorised transport and agricultural machinery, the donkey was gradually turned loose in many places, and left free to roam. The emergence of free-roaming donkey populations has brought novel challenges for conservationists, land managers and animal welfarists alike. In many places they are categorised as ‘non-native’ and so framed as illegitimate and ‘out of place’.

Methodology

This project consists of a critical review of academic literature, grey literature (institutional reports, working papers, government documents), media reports, and communications with field researchers and practitioners. Articles were identified using a snowball technique (Echeverri et al., 2018), using key search phrases (‘feral donkey’, ‘wild burro’, ‘feral equus asinus’, ‘free-roaming donkey’, ‘free-ranging donkey’, ‘wild donkey’). These articles were then checked for their relevance. Articles were treated as both information sources (to elicit empirical knowledge) and as cultural artefacts (Bowen, 2009; Clarke, 2005) for categorical and thematic analysis as well as critical discourse analysis. Using these articles as representations of societal and scholarly discourse, we systematically reviewed the use of donkey labels and elicited their meaning, in order to reveal inconsistencies and underlying agendas.

Objectives

This project explores the social status of free-roaming donkeys, including how they are perceived, categorised and managed. It explores unique case studies of free-roaming donkeys around the world, including ‘wild burros in America’, ‘rewilded donkeys in Europe’, and ‘street donkeys in Brazil’. It considers how free-roaming donkeys are culturally and ecologically entangled within different landscapes, and then discusses how they might ‘belong’ to those landscapes. It finds that more attention needs to be given to the spaces and places that donkeys create and contribute to, as well as those they disrupt and challenge.

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