Travel 200 km south of Ethiopia’s capital city and you will find Alage ATVET College, an agricultural college situated at the end of a very long, dusty track in the middle of the Ethiopian Rift Valley. As we travelled to the college we passed donkeys, mules, baboons, macaques and cattle - this was definitely going to be a day centred around animals.
For many years the college has helped train animal health technicians in the treatment of cattle, sheep, domestic animals and even some exotic ones (we saw a monkey with food poisoning being cared for!). Upon graduation after three years of study, they will start working in one of the thousands of government animal health posts throughout Ethiopia.
In 2012 The Donkey Sanctuary, along with Alage College, launched its health and welfare training programme specifically for donkeys and mules. The students at the college will become the next generation of Ethiopia’s government animal health professionals and, most importantly, a generation that understands the welfare and medical needs of the country’s seven million donkeys. There are eight donkeys that live on site, who are used to demonstrate care and welfare practices to the students. Pampered and with excellent accommodation, these donkeys must be some of the luckiest in the country.
Whilst we were there, it became clear that not all donkeys in the area are as lucky as the college residents. Under the hot Rift Valley sun we met Tasfa, a three-year old female. Tasfa had collapsed after the cart she was harnessed to had been overloaded. Unfortunately, Tasfa had fallen onto a wooden spike which caused a serious wound to her abdomen. Her owner Edao walked the three-hour journey with Tasfa to Alage College to see if there was anything that could be done.
We soon learned two very important sides to Tasfa’s story. The first was how much she was loved by her owner. Edao didn’t just bring her in; he also made the six-hour round trip every day for five days, bringing her feed that he thought she might like as she recovered. Edao explained that he and his family of five owed their whole way of life to Tasfa, and he was amazed at the excellent care and facilities at Alage College.
The second half of the story was the learning opportunity that Tasfa’s case provided for the students, who got a chance to observe how such a case was treated and managed. Tasfa responded immediately to her treatment, and with the tasty food brought in by Edao, Tasfa was soon eating and on the road to recovery. We left not only feeling so happy that she had survived, but that, with the help of The Donkey Sanctuary, there is now a new generation of animal health professionals who know how to deal with cases like Tasfa’s.
Andrew Perry, Groom
The Donkey Sanctuary, Birmingham