As part of the 2015 Donkey Sanctuary Scholarship, a scheme set up in memory of our founder Dr Elisabeth Svendsen providing an opportunity for staff from the UK to see and experience our work overseas first hand, Andy Perry from our donkey assisted therapy centre in Birmingham and I were thrilled to be selected to travel to Ethiopia.
On 9 November 2015 we travelled 4,000 miles and were astonished to discover Ethiopia is home to over 7 million working donkeys and mules (the highest population in the world). Sadly the donkeys are often the most misunderstood and neglected animals and yet they are crucial to people’s livelihoods. We witnessed pack and cart donkeys transporting anything and everything. From people and goats to grain, water, bricks, firewood, animal feed and even a snooker table!
Merkato, one of Africa’s largest and busiest grain markets in Addis Ababa, was our first port of call and amidst the hustle and bustle is The Donkey Sanctuary Merkato clinic. We were greeted by the wonderful Animal Health Assistant, Chala Chaburte and his dedicated team. The clinic sees over 100 donkeys every day and treats donkeys with back wounds, hyena bites, lameness and injuries from road traffic collisions, colic (a common problem from ingesting plastic bags) and infectious diseases such as strangles and tetanus.
The clinic also offers much needed respite and recuperation for these hard working donkeys with space to rest in the shade and time to drink. It was so good to witness the donkeys grooming each other and to see them calm and rested for a moment before returning to the chaos of the grain market.
The clinic said often the donkeys just wonder in without their owners and somehow know where to go and as Chala said “The door is always open and the trough always full”.
Welfare Office Manager (GB)