Photographer Crispin Hughes recently travelled out to Kenya to see firsthand how The Donkey Sanctuary helps working donkeys in and around Nairobi. His blog tells the story of one of the donkeys that the team helped during Crispin’s visit:
Responding to an urgent call from a donkey cart driver I travelled with The Donkey Sanctuary’s Nairobi ambulance team from Karen to Kiserian, a journey of about half an hour. We drove through a hilly and rapidly developing landscape with many building sites sprouting up. The last section of our journey was off of the main road, and we bumped down a rutted track to our destination - a rubbish-strewn, empty plot of land. The sour smell of sewage struck me as we got out and met Gerald Nguna – the cart driver who had contacted the team - and the wounded donkey. Obviously suffering, the donkey was standing patiently amidst the rubbish with his badly injured and infected right rear leg raised off the ground.
I asked Gerald the donkey’s name and he said that he called him ‘Kati Kati’ meaning ‘centre’ because he worked in the middle of his team of three donkeys. He explained that after work pulling construction materials up the steep hills of Kiserian, the drivers turn their donkeys loose to graze. Kati Kati’s wound had been inflicted maliciously by a watchman who felt Kati Kati might stray onto the shamba he was guarding.
Thanks to some free training that The Donkey Sanctuary had offered cart operators in the area, Gerald knew who to turn to for help when Kati Kati was attacked. As well as contacting the charity for help in treating his donkey’s wound, Gerald had also reported the matter to the police and hoped that a photo of the wound might help bring a conviction against the watchman.
I asked Gerald about his life and Kati Kati’s part in it. He told me that the hilly terrain and heavy loads he needed to transport required three donkeys to pull a cart. With Kati Kati wounded Gerald’s key income was gone. He said:
“‘I have a wife and two children and Kati Kati is the breadwinner. I get 100 shillings (around 75p) per 1km trip with the cart, so I can’t afford a commercial vet, and besides, commercial vets don’t tend to know much about donkeys. Without The Donkey Sanctuary we would just have to pray and do our best, otherwise it’s just too bad for the donkey.”
When they assessed Kati Kati, The Donkey Sanctuary team decided that the wound was too serious to be treated in situ, and arranged to take him to the charity’s donkey hospital for treatment. Charity vet David Oduori checked Kati Kati’s pulse and then gave him a pain killing injection (donkeys do not give overt signs of pain but a raised pulse like Kati Kati’s can indicate that they are in pain).
Kati Kati was coaxed into the ambulance and driven back to The Donkey Sanctuary where David talked me through how the wound would be managed and treated. Anti-biotic and tetanus injections were followed by a sedative to allow the wound to be cleaned and investigated. Thankfully the infection had not yet reached the inside of the joint and Kati Kati is expected to make a full recovery over the next couple of months. We left him happily munching on a bowl of food in his new clean, dry stable.
The charity has organised a further baraza (community meeting) at Kiserian to try and improve the health of the donkeys and stop malicious attacks like the one inflicted on Kati Kati. The Donkey Sanctuary is also championing calls for the local council to provide a safe grazing plot for the area’s cart donkeys.
The Donkey Sanctuary has been working in Kenya since 1994, providing all-year-round community education, veterinary treatments and improvement of harness, helping thousands of donkeys. The charity’s project is based in Nairobi and mobile teams visit villages and cities in the surrounding areas.