equus asinus

Donkeys in transition: changing use in a changing world

Donkeys have a long history in the development of human societies. Typically referred to as a beast of burden, traditional uses for donkeys have included the transportation of goods and people, use in agricultural and forestry activities, to access water, and provide citizens in low- and middle-income countries a means of making an income for communities. However, the rise of mechanization, the development of modern farming techniques, and the increasing availability of motorized vehicles have led to donkeys and mules becoming redundant from traditional roles in many parts of the world. We provide examples of where donkeys have successfully transitioned from traditional roles to new, non-traditional roles in Europe and North America, and demonstrate that, although the roles and use of donkeys and mules are changing in a rapidly developing world, we can learn lessons from the past and apply them to current challenges. As the need for working equids declines in transport and agriculture, they still hold great value for recreational, therapeutic, and environmentally friendly methods of animal traction. 

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
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Documenting the welfare and role of working equids in rural communities of Portugal and Spain

Recently, the need for a more holistic approach to welfare assessment has been highlighted. This is particularly pertinent in the case of working equids who provide vital support for human livelihoods, often in low- to middle-income countries, yet suffer from globally low standards of welfare. This study aimed to provide insight into the welfare status and traditional use of working equids in rural Western European communities using the new EARS welfare tool, designed to provide a broad view of the welfare of working equids and the context in which they are found. Other questions on the topics of equid management practices, social transmission of expertise, environmental stressors, and traditions, alongside physical and behavioural welfare assessments were also included to explore the impact of these wide-ranging factors on an understudied population of working equids. The protocol was trialled on 60 working equid owners from communities in Portugal and Spain where, despite the decline in traditional agricultural practices and livestock keeping, donkeys and mules remain working animals. Many owners stated that the help donkeys provided was invaluable, and donkeys were considered to be important for both farming and daily life. However, participants also recognised that the traditional agricultural way of life was dying out, providing insights into the traditional practices, community structure, and beliefs of equid owners. Questions investigating the social networks and social transfer of information within the villages were effective in finding local sources of equid knowledge. Overall, welfare was deemed fair, and the protocol enabled the identification of the most prevalent welfare problems within the communities studied, in this case obesity and the use of harmful practices. The findings suggest that the new protocol was feasible and detail how contextual factors may influence equid welfare. Increasing understanding of the cultural context, social structure, and attitudes within a community, alongside more traditional investigations of working practices and animal management, may, in the future, help to make equid welfare initiatives more effective.

Journal
Volume
10
Issue
5
Start page
790
Publication date
Research output
Country
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