The Donkey Sanctuary is currently funding a number of research projects that will have a great impact on donkeys and mules around the world.

Valuing Donkeys Project

An estimated 112 million working horses, ponies, donkeys and mules are essential to the livelihoods of some of the poorest communities across the world. The socioeconomic value of these animals is often taken for granted and people may exploit their hardworking nature, leading to poor welfare. To address this lack of recognition of the critical and central role that working donkeys and mules play in rural communities, we are running a long-term and multifaceted research project to evidence and demonstrate their true value. Our research will provide first-hand evidence of the economic contributions that donkeys and mules make to rural communities, but also explore and evidence their cultural, social and religious values to the people who rely on them. We will use this evidence to highlight the critical and central role that working equids play in rural communities, with a view to improving local and international policy to protect their status and welfare.

Donkeys in East Africa

In Africa, the growing threat to donkey populations is increasing attention to the drivers of donkey losses through legal and illegal trade and theft. In response, we are developing a number of research streams in East Africa to collect evidence and develop our understanding of these issues. We aim to explore the socioeconomic variables that may influence household donkey use, and the impact that donkey theft associated with the skin trade has on families. We intend to explore a number of questions surrounding the value and use of donkeys in East Africa, determine local perceptions on donkey population trends, understand illegal trade and export, and how these issues influence households and donkey users. This research seeks to generate compelling empirical evidence that accounts for the knowledge gap related to donkey trends in Africa and the impacts of donkey losses to inform policy and dialogue on the continent.

Donkeys in development

Working equids contribute much to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and have an important role to play in human welfare and development. However, the contribution in enhancing the livelihood of poor and welfare issues especially in case of the donkeys and mules are underacknowledged and neglected in the policies and development programs due to lack of information and data to support their contribution. In India, there is no data or information available at the national level to highlight the welfare issues of donkey and mule populations and their dependents to include them in national (or international) policy. We aim to map the issues that donkeys and mules face in India, and place this within the broader developmental context. By identifying issues, and developing innovation and changes in policy, we have the opportunity to bring positive change to both working equids and the humans that depend on them. The study will follow desktop review, qualitative and quantitative data collection methods across the regions where donkey and mule population are high. The results will inform the consideration and development of intervention strategies, identify potential partners for affecting change in animal and human welfare, and identify further themes for future research to address.

Educating children about donkeys in Badli brick kiln school, India
Educating children about donkeys in Badli brick kiln school, India
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Donkeys in Brazil

The donkey is the cultural symbol of North-East Brazil, and is an important element of rural life, being used in agriculture and transportation. However, unfortunately there are a number of issues facing donkeys in Brazil, including slaughter for the skin trade and large populations of feral and abandoned animals. This research piece aims to explore the current situation of donkey use and donkey welfare in North-East Brazil, to help us better understand the situation and develop interventions to improve donkey welfare and develop policy at local government level. The results of the research will enable us to advocate for donkey health and welfare in the region, and assist us in the development of strategic interventions and policy development.

Feral donkeys

With the economic development of many low- and middle-income countries and communities, the traditional need for and use of donkeys is dying out. In many parts of the world, donkeys are being replaced by technology; mainly in the form of tractors, motorcycles and other types of vehicle. Consequently, the value of donkeys falls in these communities or countries, and donkeys get abandoned by their owners as they are no longer a vital asset. This trend has led to the emergence of large herds of abandoned animals, which are gradually becoming feral. Such groups face a number of challenges and negative attitudes, and there are several concerns for their welfare. We are conducting research to understand more about this issue, identify local decision-makers and develop a strategy about how we can improve the welfare and wellbeing of these animals. We are currently focusing on large populations of feral donkeys in Brazil, but also conducting desk-based research to understand the wider issues of feral equids and the influence they have upon ecosystems.