Available Open Access

Electronic instrumentation of a swingletree for equid pull load monitoring: a contribution for the welfare and performance of working donkeys

Equids play a fundamental role in supporting livelihoods in many parts of the world. Being able to access the animal’s welfare, especially while performing tasks that involve high levels of physical effort such as those found in agroforestry activities, is of utmost importance. The Donkey Sanctuary, a UK-based international charitable institution, has designed a project that aims to develop a set of tools to evaluate the working conditions of donkeys and mules worldwide. This requires the measurement of several different parameters, including the force exerted by an animal to pull a load during work. This article presents the stages of design, development and implementation of a device capable of carrying out these measurements with minimal human intervention and with negligible impact on the task operating conditions. Data obtained from real fi eld conditions validates the devised measurement method.

Volume
20
Issue
2
Start page
111
End page
125
Publication date
Research output

Hoof surgery in donkeys – results of 24 cases

Alexandra K. Thiemann
Presentation date

Background: Donkey hooves have differences in anatomy from the horse; hoof disease is a significant cause of lameness and mortality in donkeys. Surgery is required to treat sepsis of P3 and keratomas. There is little published data and no case series in donkey for these conditions.

Objectives: To determine the success of treatment of surgical conditions of the donkey hoof in a population (2500 donkeys) during the study period 13 September 2018 to 18 February 2020.

Study design: Case series.

Methods: A protocol for hoof surgery implemented prior to the study ensured standardisation of data. A retrospective analysis of case records, treatments, and histology was undertaken; results were entered and analysed in a standard Excel spreadsheet.

Results: There were nine cases of septic pedal osteitis, two were euthanased (22%). There were two cases of canker: one was euthanased after two standing surgeries. There were 13 cases with keratoma-like lesions. These contained dyskeratotic keratin and, in 11 cases filamentous micro-organisms. Results of surgical removal compared favourably with case series in horses, there being no mortalities, and all returning to soundness.

Main limitations: The numbers were relatively low, and the donkeys were companion animals, meaning that a direct comparison with an athletic horse population is not possible.

Conclusions: Foot surgery in donkeys carries similar success rates to the horse.

Keywords
Country
Published as conference proceedings
Publication date
Volume
53
Issue
S55
Research output

Resilience and the role of equids in humanitarian crises

In times of crisis, working equids can play a critical role supporting vulnerable people in low- to middle-income countries. However, the contributions working equids make are rarely acknowledged in academic research, media reporting, international policy and development initiatives.

This paper explores involvements of working equids in humanitarian crises, including war, conflict, drought, climate change, and natural hazards. It offers ‘critical cases’, informed by document analysis of policy papers, historical texts, and academic publications. In addition, we include results from semi-structured interviews with key informants, primarily field staff working in frontline services in crisis zones, conducted between June - July 2020.

The paper develops evidence pertaining to the role of working equids in crisis situations, expanding the concept of ‘resilience’ to include working animals, and contributing to recent academic discussions in disaster studies and development studies, highlighting the importance for global policy, resilience programming and disaster risk reduction, including efforts to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Journal
Publication date
Research output

The development of the AWIN welfare assessment protocol for donkeys

The donkey population has increased in the last 10 years, with an estimated 50 million donkeys currently worldwide. Donkey welfare, meanwhile, is an increasing global concern that receives close public scrutiny. However, multiple challenges are surrounding how donkey welfare is assessed and recorded. The Animal Welfare Indicators (AWIN) project is the first project, funded by the European Commission, intended to improve donkey welfare by developing a scientifically sound and practical on-farm welfare assessment protocol. The present study describes the procedure for the development of the AWIN welfare assessment protocol for donkeys: 1) selection of promising welfare indicators; 2) research to cover gaps in knowledge; 3) stakeholder consultation; 4) testing the prototype protocol on-farm. The proposed two-level strategy improved on-farm feasibility, while the AWIN donkey app enables the standardized collection of data with prompt results. Although limitations are linked with a relatively small reference population, the AWIN welfare assessment protocol represents the first scientific and standardized approach to evaluate donkey welfare on-farm.

Volume
58
Publication date
Research output

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

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
Research output

'All my animals are equal, but none can survive without the horse’. The contribution of working equids to the livelihoods of women across six communities in the Chimaltenango Region of Guatemala

It is widely assumed that working equid husbandry is carried out by men, and women are often not recognised as facilitating equid welfare. The aim of this study is to investigate how working equids contribute to women’s livelihoods in six of the World Horse Welfare programme target communities in Guatemala and determine what roles women have in their care. Thirty-four face-to-face interviews were carried out and data were analysed using both quantitative and qualitative methods. This study found that working equids support women by reducing domestic drudgery, generating income, feeding livestock and saving time. Thirty-two women played a major role in the care of one or more equids, and overall, women did not feel that they knew enough about equid husbandry. Thirty-one women said they would attend training opportunities if the advertising was clear and they felt that women were able to join. This study recognises the contribution of working equids to women’s livelihoods, describes the roles women play in equid husbandry and addresses the discrepancies between women’s roles and their capacity to undertake these tasks. This emphasises the need for extension services to include and cater for women, improving equid welfare and their ability to continue supporting women’s livelihoods.

Journal
Volume
11
Issue
6
Start page
1509
Publication date
Research output
Country

Understanding the attitudes of communities to the social, economic and cultural importance of working donkeys in rural, peri-urban and urban areas of Ethiopia

Working donkeys (Equus africanus asinus) are vital to the development and support of people's livelihoods in rural, peri-urban, and urban areas of Ethiopia. However, despite their critical role in providing transport, food security, and income generation to some of the poorest and most marginalized households, donkey contributions to human livelihoods have been largely unexplored. Donkey users, veterinary surgeons, business owners, and civil servants were interviewed to investigate the role humans play in shaping donkey lives while furthering our understanding of the social and economic impacts of working donkeys to human lives. Findings are discussed through seven guiding themes; donkeys as generators of income, the relationship between donkeys and social status, donkeys and affect, empowerment through donkeys, the role of donkeys in reducing vulnerability and encouraging resilience, donkey husbandry, and gender dynamics all of which gave a broader and richer insight into the value of donkeys. Donkeys are an important support in rural, peri-urban, and urban settings through the creation of economic security, independence, and participation in local saving schemes. In addition, donkeys provide social status, empowerment to marginalized groups such as women and the very poor and provide a sense of companionship. Whether the interviewee was a donkey user or a key informant appeared to influence their views on donkeys and their welfare, as did their location. The variations in views and practices between urban and rural settings suggests that assessing the socioeconomic value of donkeys in different locations within the same area or country is critical, rather than assuming that similar views are held between compatriots. Despite their centrality to many people's lives in Ethiopia, working donkeys often hold lowly status, are misunderstood, and given little husbandry and healthcare.

Volume
7
Issue
60
Publication date
Research output
Subscribe to Available Open Access