Our annual review outlines what a difference we made to donkeys' lives in 2017, with a message from our chief executive Mike Baker.  

It was my privilege during 2017 to experience so much vital work being carried out at our UK sanctuaries, and by our projects overseas.

At home I had the opportunity to witness the expertise, dedication and compassion of staff and volunteers, from the welfare advisers called out to rescue donkeys from abuse and neglect to the grooms, vets and farriers who maintain such high welfare standards for the donkeys and mules in our care.

Just one of many such cases was the rescue of seven donkeys in Staffordshire, suffering chronic pain as their owner had failed to trim their overgrown hooves. The donkeys are now doing well in our care, and after they arrived it was found that five of them were in foal.

To increase the impact of our veterinary care and research, we also opened a new hospital in Devon to treat sick donkeys both inside and outside our care. Another significant development was an increase in the number of donkeys in our rehoming scheme from 1,846 in 2016 to 2,051 in 2017, in the UK and mainland Europe.

Further afield the issues faced by donkeys are very different and a donkey suffering in Africa is every bit as deserving as a donkey in Sidmouth. We need to be there for both of them.

During visits to Kenya, Tanzania and Namibia we witnessed first-hand the suffering caused by the unsustainable rise in the theft of working donkeys for the skin trade.

Violet Antete, a donkey owner in Tanzania, summarised the plight of many: “When the kids visited the donkeys, they discovered one, Tabu, was missing. We went looking for her but found only her discarded corpse. Only the skin had gone. We now have one less donkey to fetch our water. They assist the family in collecting water during the rains, and their work is even more important when there is drought. We have lost a vital part of our family.”

Our response to such global challenges combines grass-roots initiatives with advocacy and awareness-raising in order to make a sustainable impact. While collaborating with local partners on community education and training projects, we consulted governments, non-governmental organisations and the international media to garner support.

One of many high-level meetings was at the United Nations where I had the opportunity to demonstrate the critical role donkeys play in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all.

The great strength of The Donkey Sanctuary is how we provide both practical help for individual donkeys and influence top decision makers by persuading them of the urgent need for donkey welfare, and giving them ideas about how to achieve it.

There are an estimated 50 million donkeys and mules in the world and we can’t possibly reach them on our own. Our ability to transform the lives of the millions of animals that need us depends on persuading others that this will make a real difference, not only to donkeys but the people who rely on them.

Our focus in the year ahead is to develop as a beacon for donkey welfare all over the UK, and our international and advocacy work will focus on reaching donkeys at scale around the world.

Mike Baker

Chief Executive