Kate Milner, a veterinary student at the University of Bristol, was this year's winner of an overseas travel grant awarded by The Donkey Sanctuary in conjunction with the British Veterinary Association.
In most cases the students are expected to conduct a literature review at their University related to the project they have undertaken before their visit, as well as visiting The Donkey Sanctuary before their trip overseas.
The students can spend between 4-6 weeks with the overseas project, working closely with one of the project vets. On their return they write up a report based on the terms of reference given for the project.
Kate's research project was to find out whether the Sanctuary's nomogram, which is also used in Kenya for estimating the bodyweight of a donkey from body measurements, is an accurate measurement guide for donkeys in Kenya.
At the same time, Kate also wanted to learn about Kenyan culture as well as see the challenges that the people, animals and the Sanctuary staff face on a daily basis.
Kate spent about two weeks visiting various villages in the Yatta district with one of our mobile units collecting data for her project. These mobile visits give the local people an opportunity to bring their donkeys along to be examined and treated and for the team to offer advice on any welfare issues.
The data collected by Kate included the donkey's heart girth, wither height and length. Each donkey's age was estimated by checking their teeth and their body condition was recorded. The donkeys were also weighed and Kate recorded whether they were male or female.
Interestingly, Kate asked the donkey owners whether they had visited one of the Sanctuary's mobile units previously, and we're delighted that from Kate's results, over 80% had been before indicating that the mobile visits were proving to be a welcome resource to the people.
Towards the end of Kate's stay in Kenya, she took a second field trip to the Naivasha district, Rift Valley province where she spent a few more days gathering data for her project. Compared to the Yatta district, where the donkeys are mainly used by families as pack donkeys to carry water for their homes, a larger number of donkeys in the Naivasha district are used by industry to carry goods such as building materials.
Kate's research results will reveal whether or not the Sanctuary's nomogram is an accurate way of measuring the bodyweight of donkeys in Kenya. Knowing a donkey's bodyweight is extremely important to vets when administering treatments as incorrect medication could prove to be harmful to the donkey.
By knowing a donkey's bodyweight, the Sanctuary can better advise an owner on the maximum load a donkey should carry and along with its body condition score, can assess whether or not the donkey's diet is adequate.
On behalf of all the staff here at the Sanctuary we would like to wish Kate all the best for her career in the veterinary profession having been successful in her final examinations for the degree of BVSc at the University of Bristol
Veterinary Times - Review, No. 41 on 18 October 2010
BVA Overseas Newsletter