Our annual review, written by our chief executive Mike Baker, outlines what a difference we made to donkeys' lives in 2016. 

It has been my privilege to experience both the work of our UK farms and sanctuaries, and of our vital projects overseas.

On home soil I had the opportunity to spend time with some of our incredibly dedicated grooms and volunteers, learning just what it takes to maintain high welfare standards for the donkeys and mules in our care.

Every day, in wind, rain, storms and snow, they feed, groom and care for our resident herds of over 5,000 animals, and I was moved to witness first-hand their extraordinary compassion and skill. During one daily health check, they identified that a donkey called Legend had a leg injury. Within minutes one of our vets arrived to give treatment and advice, and I can happily report that Legend is now fully recovered. Not every donkey is so lucky, unfortunately, but whatever challenges the day may bring, our team of farm workers is always there for them.

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

On a recent visit to our project in Mexico the first thing I saw when I got out of the car was a woman leading two donkeys down a hill, not realising one had collapsed. When we got to that donkey to help rescue and look after it we found it had huge wounds; it had given birth only a few weeks before; it was malnourished; it was lame; it had everything wrong with it you could think of but was still being forced to haul water up and down the hill.

A few days later I was at a completely contrasting event, a high level conference on animal welfare organised by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). We were able to directly articulate what the problems are for donkeys and what should be done to help these animals.

That’s what’s so fantastic about The Donkey Sanctuary — we’ve got everything from practical help for individual donkeys right up to discussing donkey welfare with top ranking decision makers, persuading them that something should be done and giving them ideas about how to do it. We relieve donkey suffering directly and we train and advise others to do the same. It’s through this work that we will have a mass impact and it’s something we will continue to build on.

There are 50 million donkeys in the world and we can’t possibly reach them on our own. Our ability to transform the lives of the tens of millions 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. That’s why advocacy and increased focus on our international work have to have a much bigger priority in 2017 and beyond.

Mike Baker, Chief Executive