Millions of the world’s poorest people rely on donkeys to keep them supplied with the basic necessities of life and enable them to earn enough money to support their families. Whether these donkeys are collecting a household’s supply of clean water, transporting their owner’s farm produce to market, or enabling a family to earn a living in a brick kiln or on a building site, they are providing a vital service to people who can only afford to give them minimal food, shelter and medical care. Donkeys are hardy creatures and well-adapted to life in hot climates and inhospitable environments, but in many ways their toughness works against them; their high pain threshold and stoical nature prevents many owners from noticing when their donkeys are sick or injured.
The Donkey Sanctuary’s Overseas Department has been working to help these loyal, long-suffering animals for 33 years. We have bases and major programmes in India, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya and Mexico; and have supported projects in many other countries, particularly through our small grants programme.
Thanks to our supporters, our overseas teams can alleviate the suffering caused by harness wounds and sores, lameness, injuries, parasites and disease, advise owners on donkey health and welfare, and train local government vets and other people within the community to provide better help for donkeys and their owners in times of need.
This approach, supplementing veterinary care with professional training, community education and work in partnership with local services, is designed to spread the benefits of our activities beyond the donkeys and owners we encounter in our day-to-day work. We aim to try and influence many other people and organisations who affect the donkeys’ well-being; for instance, owners of brick kilns where donkeys work, artisans who make donkey pack saddles or cart harness, and community animal health workers who staff some of the clinics in remote areas we cannot visit very often. Through this approach we aim to keep extending awareness and knowledge of donkey welfare outwards like the ripples in a pond, to ‘reach’ thousands of extra donkeys every year.
Our overseas work is challenging at the best of times and sometimes seems overwhelmingly difficult. Many of the donkey welfare problems we encounter stem from human beliefs and habits which cannot be changed quickly, especially when rooted in culture and tradition, and further influenced by economic pressures. But among all the setbacks, we do find people with a real will to improve their donkeys’ wellbeing, and sometimes it takes just a few of these individuals or groups to start changing the views of a whole community. We are striving to communicate our message to those owners, and to train their local vets and animal health workers, so that our donors’ money can reach as many as possible of the millions of working donkeys in need of help.