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International animal welfare charity, based in the UK, working to protect and care for donkeys and mules.
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Court hands ban to neglectful donkey owner

17 October 2017

A man who failed to trim his donkeys’ overgrown hooves has been disqualified from keeping equines for five years, after handing over his animals to The Donkey Sanctuary.

Raymond Grigg (date of birth: 06/06/1948) of Longdogs Lane, Ottery St Mary, Devon, pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to three donkeys and failing to meet the needs of five donkeys when he appeared at Exeter Magistrates’ Court on Monday (16 October 2017) following a prosecution by the RSPCA.

The donkeys were found to have suffered from prolonged neglect when they were left with chronically overgrown hooves, but following treatment they are now enjoying life in the care of The Donkey Sanctuary in Devon.

Magistrates also ordered Grigg to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work and pay £385 in costs, a £300 fine and a £85 victim surcharge.

Hannah Bryer, head of welfare at The Donkey Sanctuary, said: “Owning donkeys can be a hugely rewarding experience and a wonderful privilege, however they require caring and compassionate management to ensure they lead healthy and enriched lives. We would encourage anyone who currently owns or is thinking about acquiring donkeys, to seek advice on how to best meet their welfare needs before taking on the commitment.

“Sadly when our donkey welfare adviser first saw the five donkeys in this case it was obvious that they were need of immediate veterinary care. Some had significantly overgrown hooves, whilst another had suffered a wound to its leg and shoulder which was affecting its ability to walk.

“Following specialist veterinary treatment and investigative tests, the condition of two of the donkeys was such that sadly euthanasia was considered the most humane treatment option.

“Happily with the support of our vets, farriers and farm staff, the other three donkeys have made a good recovery and are living among other donkeys at one of our sanctuaries.

“We are grateful to the combined efforts of the RSPCA, Devon and Cornwall Police and St David's Vets in investigating this case and we are happy to provide a safe and secure future for the three donkeys now in our care.”

RSPCA inspector Marie Griffiths said: “Equines require a lot of specialist care and it is important to remember that people who have animals have a responsibility to look after them properly, and ensure they receive the proper veterinary treatment and care when they need it.”

Helping Barbuda's donkeys as Irma raises the bar

12 October 2017

The Donkey Sanctuary dispatched a team to Barbuda to ensure the welfare of the island’s feral donkeys in the wake of Hurricane Irma, which risk hindering the rebuilding efforts by straying onto the local airport runway.

In the fourth part of his report from the island, Simon Pope, Rapid Response and Campaigns Manager at The Donkey Sanctuary reveals how the damage has affected donkeys and hears from locals caught up in the destruction.

Wednesday 4 October

“An inspection of the airport fence confirmed what we had guessed – not an inch of it was standing, having been comprehensively flattened by the storm. The fact that it was pretty flimsy and rusting hadn’t helped prolong its life, but it meant that donkeys and horses for miles around had been able to wander in and adopt the airport as their own private playground and restaurant.

As we were packing up to go, two friendly firemen drove up and introduced themselves. A small plane was about to land and they needed to check the runway for any debris that might have blown onto it. Not much of anything was working at the airport – the runway lights, which were tough, short columns set into the grass border, had all been ripped out of the ground. There were twisted pieces of metal, bits of roofs and planks with huge nails in them, as well as clothes, shoes and curtains. Just about everything had been scattered around the runway perimeter.

The runway itself was scarred and marked by the debris, although the potholes had been repaired temporarily. Five huge metal containers (the sort you see on ships) had been sitting beside the runway before Irma struck and now no-one could find them. We actually stumbled across one over half a mile away and it had only been stopped because it got wrapped round an obstinate tree.

The firemen were very aware of the donkey issue at the airport, but took it in their stride. Before each plane came in or took off, they drove round the runway in a car, the simple act of which scared the donkeys away. Neither the firemen nor the donkeys saw it as a big deal, although the former were quite interested in short term solutions to dissuade the donkeys and horses from congregating there. We talked about crow scarers and klaxons and they were very open to trying them out. Another good connection made.

We loaded up our equipment, and made our way back to the harbour. It wasn’t a long walk, but it took us to part of the town that seemed to have been most badly affected by the hurricane. A huge truck had been blown over on its side and into someone’s front garden. A herd of goats had taken over someone’s lounge and were variously sleeping on the sofa or absent-mindedly eating it. It was eerily quiet, broken only by the banging of loose tin roofs.

Out of every house spilled the private, personal things that made up the lives of their inhabitants and I felt uncomfortable looking at it, like some voyeuristic snoop. But it felt like I was looking at the end of the world as one of the few people still standing, an unnerving but utterly extraordinary feeling.

Very slowly, Barbudans are returning to their homes. The government lifted the evacuation order last week but people are trickling back, not flooding. They are a proud, resilient people, who see themselves as quite different from their neighbours in Antigua. A small group of them, congregated around some tables, called me over to say hello.

“We knew it was coming,” they said. “It took its time, and then it took off. You just can’t imagine what it was like. We were so scared. We’d been hiding under the sink in the kitchen, but once that went we just held onto each other because there was nothing else to hold onto.”

The hurricane was so powerful that some meteorologists say there should be a rethink on how storm levels are calculated. There are five categories of storm strength and Irma was a five. By way of comparison, the 1987 storm that caused such havoc in the UK had an average wind speed of 50 mph and gusts up to 115 mph. Irma meanwhile registered average 185mph winds with gusts of up to 225 mph.

So Irma has now raised the bar, so to speak, forcing the creation of two new categories above five. It just goes the show the sheer magnitude of what the island’s inhabitants were faced with and why we felt compelled to lend our support.”

If you would like to donate to help The Donkey Sanctuary support donkeys at times of crisis, please visit the JustGiving page.

Related articles: Barbuda's feral donkeys

Goodbye to Gareth - King of the Herd

9 October 2017

I need to let you all know that we have had to make the most heartbreaking of decisions for mini adoption donkey, Gareth, gently putting him to sleep this afternoon surrounded by his loving grooms and his best friend, Benji.

He has been giving us cause for concern over the last few months, progressively losing his sight and encountering increasing problems with his hoof. Some donkeys cope well with sight loss, others not so well. Sadly, Gareth was in this latter category and this is why it’s been so challenging to treat his hoof effectively.

Over the past few months he had been slightly lame on one of his front legs and X-rays showed up an infection in his pedal (toe) bone. Despite treatment the infection just wouldn’t go away and we were left with just two options. The first would involve major surgery which would require transport to our hospital, a general anaesthetic and daily aftercare for months until the hoof had healed.

All of us here who knew and loved Gareth just knew that he would not react well to all this interference and it would cause him huge distress. We settled on the alternative option which was to manage his pain with painkillers (given to him in his favourite jam sandwich) for as long as possible.
This weekend the infection returned once again and this time with a vengeance.

We could see that the pain was significant. We had truly hoped that we could help him go on for ages but we had to keep his quality of life uppermost in our hearts and minds.

That is what we do here – as our wonderful founder, Dr S, always said, ‘put donkeys first, second and third’. I’m sad to say that we could no longer manage the pain for Gareth, and so it is that we had to make that most difficult of decisions.

I will remember Gareth with great fondness, he was truly a big personality despite being diminutive in size. He will be sorely missed by us all here at The Donkey Sanctuary as I’m sure he will be missed by all his wonderful adopters and visitors too.

If you adopt Gareth, we will be writing to you shortly about how your adoption will continue with a new donkey friend. Thank you so much for your support during Gareth's life - you continue to make a real difference.

If you would like to donate in his memory and help other donkeys in need just like Gareth, please click here to make a donation.

Maxine Carter, Slade House Farm manager.

Barbuda's feral donkeys

9 October 2017

The Donkey Sanctuary dispatched a team to Barbuda, one of the two major islands that make up the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, to ensure the welfare of the island’s feral donkeys in the wake of Hurricane Irma, which risk hindering the rebuilding efforts by straying onto the local airport runway.

In the third part of his report from the island, Simon Pope, Rapid Response and Campaigns Manager at The Donkey Sanctuary, begins looking at ways to keep donkeys off the runway and discovers the trials and tribulations of filming them...

Wednesday 4 October

“Our task on this latest trip was in response to a direct request from the government minister we’d met yesterday – to look at ways to stop donkeys wandering onto the airport runway, and how they could be driven away so that planes could land and take off safely.

Hurricane Irma had been so destructive that not an inch of the fence around the runway was still standing and the green grass and breezy open spaces of the tarmac runway were proving irresistible to Barbuda’s feral donkeys, as well as many of the horses belonging to the island’s people.

Our boat this time round had a variety of passengers. Besides the Donkey Sanctuary and Humane Society teams were two journalists from a French TV channel, making a documentary about the emergency response, a journalist from the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and some Barbudans coming back to begin rebuilding their homes and lives.

Nearly every vehicle we saw had been damaged in some way, with smashed windows or crushed roofs as the hurricane hurled everything in its path, but any that were serviceable were being commandeered for the relief effort.

We could see a group of horses and donkeys on the runway when we arrived, and they eyed us warily before moving further away. I had wanted to film the donkeys walking towards me along the tarmac, so I set the camera up on a bucket, right where the wheels of a plane landing would have touched down. I worked out the tactics with our team to gently coax the donkeys in the direction we wanted.

There is, of course, a universal truth that donkeys will either not do what you expect or what you want. However with Kevin and Rob Nichols as donkey wranglers, now being assisted by at least three dogs from the harbour who had attached themselves to us and seemed very keen to help, the donkeys seemed quite happy to play ball. I switched the camera on, press record and disappeared out of view.

However there were one or two factors I hadn’t considered. Accompanying us to the airport were the two journalists, who wanted to film our efforts. They seemed very excited when we worked out how to corral the donkeys down the runway but assured us they would not get in the way when we did so.

As the donkeys broke their cover from the undergrowth in which they had been happily munching their lunch and began to cooperatively cross the grass towards the tarmac, I was standing about 100 metres down the runway ready to begin filming. However at this precise moment, the two journalists also suddenly decided to break cover from the other side of the runway with video cameras in hand, and despite my loud and not-entirely-polite requests for them to return back into the bushes from where they had come, they didn’t seem to hear me. The donkeys, however, saw them very clearly and proceeded to hurtle in exactly the direction I didn’t want them to. I now said some very impolite words and sat on the tarmac until our surrogate herding dogs saw me and I vanished under a pile of hounds who thought this was the most splendid game ever.

The donkey wranglers shook their heads and said that we’d never get them back now but said they’d give it a go. By some miracle, four donkeys appeared from nowhere, dutifully trotted across the grass and then executed a sharp right onto the tarmac, in a move worthy of an Olympic dressage competition. They were helped on their way by one of the harbour dogs, who was clearly a sheepdog in a previous life. For his pains, he got a well-aimed reverse hoof at speed that just missed his face, which he seemed to find even more fun. I’d somehow managed to maintain composure while all this was going on and filmed the whole thing.”

If you would like to follow the team in Barbuda, or donate to help The Donkey Sanctuary support donkeys at times of crisis, please visit the JustGiving page.

Related articles: Working in partnershipIn the wake of Hurricane IrmaBarbuda emergency visit

National coverage for donkey skin trade campaign

6 October 2017

The Donkey Sanctuary, which is leading the efforts to draw world-wide attention to the trade in donkey skins for the use in traditional Chinese remedies, has been featured on BBC News.

Alastair Leithead, BBC Africa Correspondent, reported from Kenya, and Mike Baker, The Donkey Sanctuary CEO, was interviewed from our Sidmouth sanctuary about the growing threat to donkeys worldwide.

The charity's Under the Skin report and campaign was also featured by BBC Radio Scotland. You can find both pieces below:

BBC TV news coverage BBC Radio Scotland coverage

The Donkey Sanctuary releases global donkey skin trade survey

6 October 2017

The Donkey Sanctuary, which is leading the efforts to draw world-wide attention to the trade in donkey skins for the use in traditional Chinese remedies has released a global survey to help map the devastating trade.

The international charity is calling on everyone who works with donkeys worldwide from veterinarians and livestock officers to project staff and community leaders to complete the short survey and help tackle this devastating trade.

Alex Mayers, head of programmes at The Donkey Sanctuary says: “While we know the devastating effects of the donkey skin trade across the world, we need to have the most accurate data we can to call on communities, governments and the industry to act in the most relevant way.

The information from this survey will build a strong picture of the current situation, and will help guide us all. By sharing what we all know about local situations, we can act together as the voice for donkeys.”

The Donkey Skin Trade Survey will be open until 31 October 2017.

The Donkey Sanctuary’s Under the Skin report, published in early 2017, was an urgent response to the unsustainable rise in the slaughter of donkeys for the skin trade – largely due to growing demand for ejiao, a traditional Chinese medicine which uses the gelatin found in donkey hides for products alleged to offer anti-ageing properties.

Watch the latest video on the Under the Skin campaign.

Working in partnership

6 October 2017

The Donkey Sanctuary dispatched a team to Barbuda, one of the two major islands that make up the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, to ensure the welfare of the island’s feral donkeys in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

In the second part of his report from the island, Simon Pope, Rapid Response and Campaigns Manager at The Donkey Sanctuary, meets a government minister and other key figures working hard to help Barbuda’s displaced donkey population.

Tuesday 3 October

“One of the reasons we’re participating in the Barbuda response is because we’ve been asked to, and being asked to is something of a privilege. It certainly hasn’t always been the case that animal welfare is a priority in emergency response situations. On many occasions in the past, responding to animal welfare issues hasn’t been seen as any sort of humanitarian issue, and therefore not a priority.

But things are changing, both at local and international level. Organisations like World Animal Protection, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Help In Suffering (HIS) have made the case for intervention and response for animals as being parallel efforts. And slowly but surely, governments are recognising the sense and importance of this.

All responses require collaboration between domestic organisations with knowledge and connections, but sometimes they have neither the resources nor the specific expertise. So we were honoured to get a call from Karen Corbin of the Antigua and Barbuda Humane Society asking for our donkey know-how and advice on the ground in Barbuda. Karen has been designated as the lead for all animal welfare groups to ensure that efforts aren’t being duplicated. She also has very good relationships with key government ministers and works seamlessly with them to overcome any obstacles.

So alongside Karen Corbin and World Animal Protection, we found ourselves sitting round the table with the Honourable Molwyn Joseph, Minister for Health and the Environment. The minister began by thanking everyone for their rapid response. He wanted us all to know that the determination to ensure a response for animal welfare in the wake of the disaster was intended to demonstrate to the global community that they saw no separation in times of emergency between the needs of humans and of people. He wanted this to be interpreted a sign that they took their responsibilities towards animals very seriously and that they wanted their progressive stance to be adopted by others.

The minister asked if we would submit a proposal that would resolve a long-standing argument about donkeys on Barbuda – the size of its population. We’ve heard wildly varying opinions about the number of donkeys on Barbuda, ranging from 120 to as many as 5,000. Our own view is that there is nothing like as many as 5,000, but probably a few hundred more than 120. We’ll be able to suggest a number of ways in which we can produce accurate figures, by conducting ground and aerial surveys. Why is this important? Well, it should mean that some of the negativity towards donkeys might dissipate if it’s established that there are far fewer than many people claim. Even the minister spoke very fondly of the donkeys that his father had, and those he had around him while growing up.”

The team will continue to assess the situation in Barbuda and report back regularly to the UK – we’ll be posting further updates from the emergency team on our website. If you would like to follow the team in Barbuda, or donate to help The Donkey Sanctuary support donkeys at times of crisis, please visit the JustGiving page.

Related articles: In the wake of Hurricane IrmaBarbuda emergency visit

Breakthrough in a long held dream

5 October 2017

A few years ago Alex Mayers and I hosted a harness workshop in Tanzania for several of our African friends. Quite a few charities came for the training, from Tanzania, South Africa and Zambia. These groups represented several NGOs that The Donkey Sanctuary has helped with funding and training over the years.

Running the workshop for the first time were Sanctuary Kenya harness guys, Amos and Nicholas. It was a real multi-purpose event as they were being assessed as trainers whilst we all worked to get the information across to the participants.

On the course we met Aaron, a really likeable character with so much respect (calls me Father) originally from Zimbabwe but currently living in Zambia and working as a harness maker for Mwamfumba. He fitted in well there, the group is down to earth, practical and very low budget. To reach villages in a visit later that year we hitched rides, walked or used the bus where possible. Africa is full of people such as these. They are a real joy to work with as their enthusiasm and commitment cannot be constrained by hardship, lack of amenities or for that matter by any of the normal barriers that people come up with not to do something.

Another guy who is key to this story is Richard. You just cannot fit such a big personality into his five foot nothing frame. It is constantly bubbling over, breaking free and getting him through all obstacles.

A couple of years ago I visited both Richard in Tanzania and Aaron in Zambia. Richard had just made his first cart under our watchful eye and Aaron was developing a ploughing harness. During the short visits I learned that each wanted the other's knowledge, so some swift action by our team got them together for a week in Zambia. Richard went home with a plough and Aaron stayed with a cart and harness. OK, sounds simple, but this was the first breakthrough in a long held dream - to train people up in their own countries so they can help their neighbours.

A typical donkey and cart seen in South Africa

Moving up to date, Aaron started to work in Zimbabwe helping the Lupane Youth Group improve the welfare of donkeys in their area. I was asked to go along and assess the work back in July which was my first trip to this beautiful but tragic country. I met Alfred, the main man in the youth group. He had found a welder and work had started by the time we, Samson (Aaron's boss) and I arrived on the bus from the border. I saw local carts like the one in this photo above being used quite a lot, so was looking forward to seeing what Aaron had come up with. Well, the building was fun, members of Lupane women's group were also helping out, and we had a lot of people passing by including local elders and chiefs, all good stuff, but we were on a strict deadline. We had three days before a big chief and elders' meeting, involving all the big men from several villages in the area. We had a welding machine held together with string, a very dodgy looking electrical supply and our welder man decided to get paralytic on the second day leaving me and a young lady from the youth group in charge of welding the accumulated pile of second hand pipes Alfred had ferreted out of every corner of the village! Nice woman, she wanted to be a boiler maker, which I thought was great. Good job she was a natural at welding - we had a lot to do!

After three days we had our cart, a well-balanced little ‘scotch cart’ (in the local vernacular, that seemed to cover just about any cart I saw). Ours was lightweight, pulled by one donkey and to be honest I was worried that its small size would put people off, after all they were used to being able to carry any amount of cargo they wanted.

Aaron making donkey carts

On the third day we presented Aaron's cart to the committee where it found universal enthusiasm to my relief. Aaron and Alfred never had any doubts, they just laughed at me and said it would be OK.

So, that was July. The cart was finished and I moved on. That night I got a text. Fifty-six carts ordered in the village! OK, so that was when they thought somebody else was going to foot the bill, but they have five more ordered and have made one other to date. Aaron? Our partners, Lilongwe SPCA recently invited him to Malawi, he went last year on the bus, has gone again. He sent me a message over the weekend to say "Nearly finished a batch of eight carts and harness!"

The very reverent harness guy Aaron, I am privileged to know people like this.

This, to me is really getting to the core of our vision all those years ago - training Africans, Indians, Americans, Asians, whatever. Training them, supporting them so that they can carry on spreading the word and helping donkeys and people across their own lands.

Aaron, Lilongwe SPCA and The Donkey Sanctuary; proud of our partnership.

In the wake of Hurricane Irma

5 October 2017

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, The Donkey Sanctuary dispatched a team to Barbuda, one of the 2 major islands that make up the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, to ensure the welfare of the island’s feral donkeys, which risk hindering the rebuilding efforts by straying onto the local airport runway.

Simon Pope, Rapid Response and Campaigns Manager at The Donkey Sanctuary and part of that four-man team, describes the devastation first-hand and outlines their efforts to help Barbuda’s donkeys.

“On Monday 2 October, we left our hotel in St John’s, Antigua at 7am, travelling across the island to meet up with Karen Corbin of the Antigua and Barbuda Humane Society as well as World Animal Protection. We loaded our kit, including two dog crates, and headed off towards Barbuda at 8.30 am, hugging the coastline and then heading out into the open waters of the Caribbean. Antigua disappeared from view and we were in open water, sailing across some big waves and dangerous-looking reefs.

After two hours, we saw waves breaking on the low shoreline of Barbuda. As the boat slowed and we came into harbour, we could see that every single building had suffered extensive damage. In some cases the only sign that a building had once existed was the square foundation – everything else had simply been blown away. There were piles of corrugated iron sheets that had blown from the roofs of the small, homely houses, but the most striking thing was the extraordinary force of the hurricane.

Sheets of metal were entwined in the trees, as if some giant hand had tied them round the trunks like a scarf. Every single telegraph pole had either been uprooted entirely, or snapped in half like a matchstick. Imagine the force it takes to break a telegraph pole in two. Cars were overturned, metal cookers lifted from kitchens and hurled out into gardens – everywhere we looked, people’s belongings had been flung far and wide.

And yet only one person was killed from Barbuda’s 1,800 population – nothing short of astonishing given the devastation Hurricane Irma caused. Reeling from the destruction, and with Hurricane Jose gaining strength and bearing down on Barbuda, the island was evacuated.

One of the saddest things I saw was outside a building near the airport: two small holdalls packed with the minimum that a family wanted to take with them. They could have been ordered to leave these behind; if everyone brought bags with them, there would have been no space for everyone. One of the bags was unzipped, probably to retrieve a purse or some jewellery at the last moment, but a child’s toy was lying in the mud beside the bag. There had been no room for it.

While some buildings had simply been blasted into the air, others were standing but heavily damaged. One we passed still had a half-eaten meal sitting on the table, which itself was the only thing that stood on the house foundations.

After loading our kit onto a hurricane-battered 4x4, we set off for the airport. Donkeys and horses had gravitated towards the airport after the evacuation, attracted by the grassy open spaces next to the runway, which in turn meant more wind to keep away the flies that they hate so much. As we expected, the animals were in good condition. Barbuda’s donkeys are wary of people, as it’s true that many of the islanders don’t view them with the same sort of affection that we do.

But while the airport is, for now, a sort of equine haven of their own making, it can’t stay like that. Once the airport returns to action, which won’t happen quickly, having donkeys and horses on the runway is neither good for man nor beast. So in the short-term we’re working on ways to keep them away from the runway, and in the longer term to make sure they don’t feel tempted to wander back.

The next job was to try and get a better picture of just how many donkeys there are in Barbuda. The figure varies from 200 to 2,000, the vagueness of which you might have thought was almost impossible on such a relatively small island. So we began the first half of a census of Barbuda’s donkey population.

The island has large areas of undeveloped scrub-type land, which is the perfect habitat for human-wary donkeys to call home. They don’t bother people and vice versa. There’s plenty of grazing and water, as well as protection from the elements. It’s most likely that with the onset of the hurricane, donkey herds will have huddled close together, laid down and waited for it to pass. Some of the islanders tell of a folklore tradition that the donkeys head for some of the natural caves and take shelter there. The good thing from our point of view was that we saw no injured donkeys.

However, we did see some animals that had succumbed to the power and fury of Irma, such as three donkeys that must have been hit and killed by flying debris, as well as some dogs and a goat.”

The team will continue to assess the situation in Barbuda and report back regularly to the UK – we’ll be posting further updates from the emergency team on our website. If you would like to follow the team in Barbuda, or donate to help The Donkey Sanctuary support donkeys at times of crisis, please visit the JustGiving page.

Related articles: Barbuda emergency visitWorking in partnership

Charity releases new film to raise awareness of donkey skin trade

3 October 2017

The Donkey Sanctuary has released a new short film highlighting the impact of the donkey skin trade - the largest single welfare issue the charity has seen.

The film will be used to raise awareness of the skin trade which - in both legal and illegal forms - is being used to feed the burgeoning consumer desire for a type of traditional Chinese medicine called Ejiao.

In the film, Alex Mayers, head of programmes at The Donkey Sanctuary, says: "At every stage in the journey, from the supply countries where the skin is coming from, we're hugely concerned about welfare.

"The donkeys are being sourced from communities who rely on them all the time and when they wake up to find all of their donkeys have gone, that's a huge blow for the people as well as the animals."

To help The Donkey Sanctuary tackle this huge issue in donkey welfare, please visit our JustGiving page.

Barbuda emergency visit

2 October 2017

The Donkey Sanctuary sent an emergency team to Barbuda in the Caribbean on 1 October to help feral donkeys left on the island, following the human evacuations after Hurricane Irma. The donkeys currently risk hindering the rebuilding efforts by straying onto the local airport runway and the charity has been asked to assist. It will also assess the impact of the Hurricane on the welfare of the donkeys.

The Donkey Sanctuary has been invited to Barbuda by the Antigua and Barbuda Human Society, and joins World Animal Protection, who have been helping provide immediate assistance to help abandoned animals (largely dogs, cats and livestock) on the island as well as providing specific expertise on donkey welfare.

The emergency team of four, John Leach, Kevin Brown, Rob Nichols and Simon Pope, are travelling from the charity’s headquarters in Sidmouth, Devon and are visiting Barbuda this week.

They will be looking to assess the welfare of the donkeys, and provide emergency help to any that are hungry, thirsty or injured. They will also establish links with local authorities to support the local airport, Codrington Airport, which had its perimeter fencing damaged by the hurricane. They will be looking to come up with short- term and longer-term fencing solutions to prevent the donkeys straying onto the airport runway, to minimise their impact on the efforts now being made to rebuild the island’s infrastructure.

The team will assess the situation in Barbuda fully, and is currently making contact with organisations involved in providing animal welfare care on other impacted islands, including Dominica. They will report back regularly to the UK.

If you would like to follow the team in Barbuda, or donate to help The Donkey Sanctuary support donkeys at times of crisis, please visit JustGiving page.

Related articles: In the wake of Hurricane Irma

Donkey Sanctuary at BEVA Congress

12 September 2017

The Donkey Sanctuary will be at the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) Congress at the Exhibition Centre Liverpool from Wednesday 13 to Saturday 16 September, co-exhibiting with World Horse Welfare, to share expert knowledge about the care and welfare of donkeys and other equines.

Experts from both charities will be on hand to explore the sensitive topic of ‘end of life’, which is being discussed at a specific session during the event - based on key findings from Advancing Equine Scientific Excellence (AESE)’s ‘Equine End of Life’ collaborative research project, which The Donkey Sanctuary contributed to.

Faith Burden, director of research at The Donkey Sanctuary, helped coordinate the research project to ensure donkeys and mules were fully represented in the study. “We were able to reach out to our network of donkey owners and practitioners to ask for their help examining attitudes to end of life issues. Euthanasia is an important final act in the care of any animal, it is always a painful decision but one that should be taken at the right time when their quality of life deteriorates.

"Assessing quality of life can be difficult, this is particularly true for donkeys who are stoic in nature and often hide signs of pain. The findings of this study will help us to better support donkey and mule owners dealing with difficult ‘end of life’ issues – ultimately finding the right time to prevent suffering.”

Staff from The Donkey Sanctuary will be on hand to discuss and share a range of information about donkey and mule-specific veterinary care, including a ‘Growing old gracefully’ DVD and leaflets on geriatric care, nutrition and veterinary support. There will be advice available on donkeys and their differences to horses, student placements and CPD at The Donkey Sanctuary and news of the charity’s global efforts, including its sustained efforts to halt the booming trade in donkey skins for traditional Chinese medicine.

The Donkey Sanctuary and World Horse Welfare’s exhibit demonstrates the importance of collaboration between animal welfare organisations and the team welcome everyone at BEVA Congress 2017 to the stand.

To coincide with the start of BEVA Congress, The Donkey Sanctuary has announced plans to release its new handbook, The Clinical Companion of the Donkey, in April 2018. Written for vets and paraprofessionals, the new handbook covers international conditions and issues for donkeys and will succeed our existing title, The Professional Handbook of the Donkey. The Clinical Companion of the Donkey will be made available in other languages through 2018, including Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese. An e-version will be available via (registration required).

Summer Raffle 2017 results

11 September 2017

We are delighted to announce the winning ticket numbers for our Summer 2017 Raffle, which were drawn on Monday 11 September 2017.

1st prize winner (£5,000)
Winning ticket no: 4187934 - Mr Burrett, Hayes

2nd prize winner (£1,000 or Luxury Break at Victoria Hotel, Sidmouth)
Winning ticket no: 2011487 - Mrs James, Wolverhampton

3rd prize winner (£200 x 10)
Winning ticket nos:
4121466 Mrs Linton-Smith, Maidstone
4542972 Mrs Backhouse, Poole
4951194 Miss Bieniek, Wirral
5233212 Mrs Keddie, Ripon
1932408 Mrs Skelton, Manchester
5108923 Miss Arnold, Epsom
4023641 Mrs Norman, Bristol
4874413 Mrs Shuttleworth, Burnley
4602872 Mrs Diplock, Okehampton
5127413 Mrs Simpson, Perth

Fast Responder Prizes (x10)
Winning ticket nos:

Marianne Steele, senior executive director of fundraising & communications, drew the winning tickets accompanied by Rupert, an 18-year-old gelding who enjoys outreach work in schools and is a popular page boy at weddings held at The Donkey Sanctuary.

We would like to say thank you to everyone who took part in our Summer Raffle this year. We have been overwhelmed by the enormous response, and your amazing generosity continues to help us to reach more and more donkeys that desperately need help.

Crisis talks on Namibia’s donkey population

8 September 2017

New research released this week by The Donkey Sanctuary reveals that the trade in donkey skins for use in traditional Chinese remedies is placing Namibia’s working donkey populations at great risk.

A coalition of concerned groups are meeting in Windhoek to consider how best to raise awareness about the issue and to protect Namibia’s working donkeys from the trade. The SPCA Windhoek and NSPCA will be joined by The Donkey Sanctuary, which is spearheading international efforts to halt the trade.

Submissions closed on 31 August for a public consultation on a new donkey abattoir in Outjo that would aim to process 70 donkeys per day. In its submission summary, The Donkey Sanctuary “calls on Namibia to learn from the lessons from across Africa and the world. Namibia must urgently carry out a full, countrywide research process covering all elements raised in this letter before considering legitimising a trade that has been shown to be so devastating to people, animals and the environment”.

UN data (FAOSTAT) showed that Namibia’s donkey population was 159,028 in 2014. While this may not be completely accurate, harvesting as many as 70 donkeys per day for Outjo’s proposed abattoir, conservatively assuming 300 days of slaughter per year, means the donkey population could fall by 21,000 per year. With a second slaughterhouse under consideration in Okahandja with similar capacity (another 21,000 per year), the total number of donkeys passing through the abattoirs would be nearly one third of the current population every year.

Alex Mayers, Head of Programmes at The Donkey Sanctuary said: “If these abattoirs open for business, Namibia’s population of donkeys are at great risk. Every African country that has tried licencing a donkey abattoir has also been plagued with massive theft and/or sale for illegal and informal slaughter.

“As a species, donkeys are slow to reproduce with pregnancy lasting around 12 months and foals taking several more years to mature. When all factors are taken into account, the donkey population in Namibia would likely disappear in three years.”

The Donkib Cultural Group, which represents donkey-dependent communities in Namibia has issued a powerful plea to halt the approval of the abattoirs. In a statement, Abner Axel Xoagub, project manager at Donkib said: “Donkeys play a very crucial role in the lives of the poor and the farmers in the rural areas. They are the only means of transport – they take children to the schools, collect water, work the land, transport families to the towns and transport brides and grooms.

“Without donkeys, the communities will be dormant, stagnant and poor… we are appealing to the Namibian government and all stakeholders to halt the abattoirs and any plans to export donkey products, until we have conducted proper studies and put in place all the needed legal instruments and control measures before embarking on the above.

“We have been with people whose donkeys were stolen, or forcibly sold to middlemen involved in [the] donkey meat trade. Imagine if the abattoir and export markets open – what kind of a situation are we going to have?”

An investigation released last week by Oxpeckers Investigative Environmental Journalism detailed the concerns from the local community in Outjo regarding the proposed abattoir.

Along with concerns about low availability of donkeys locally and a lack of public consultation to discuss the issues, the residents feared that the abattoir, with a projected daily water consumption rate of 50 cubic metres, may worsen water shortages in a town that has an underground water supply capacity of only 12 cubic metres a day. The slaughter of a single donkey requires up to 2,500 litres of water, according to statistics from the Namibia Abattoirs Association. The full investigation can be read here.

Photograph courtesy of Knotig.
Copyright: All rights reserved.

Volunteers needed to help clear invasive plants along the River Axe

31 August 2017

The Donkey Sanctuary is seeking volunteers for its Himalayan Balsam Clearance Volunteer Day in Dorset on Wednesday 6 September from 10am to 4pm.

Volunteers are wanted to help clear Himalayan balsam plants along the bank of the River Axe on Donkey Sanctuary land at East Axnoller Farm near Beaminster in Dorset. Himalayan balsam is an invasive plant which spreads quickly and causes serious damage to UK river and stream habitats.

This conservation work contributes towards the Axe Invasives Project and as well as safeguarding the river’s future, volunteers will be benefitting the Sanctuary’s 364 donkeys by providing environmental enrichment and a healthy ecosystem.

Ruth Angell, The Donkey Sanctuary’s wildlife and conservation manager says: ‘Each month I run a conservation Volunteer Day when we carry out outdoor practical tasks such as woodland management, hedge laying and hedge planting, willow weaving and pond restoration. These events are a fantastic opportunity to meet like-minded people, share and learn skills, and have fun in the great outdoors.’

The Donkey Sanctuary will be holding Woodland Management Volunteer Days on Wednesday 25 October and Saturday 28 October at The Sanctuary’s main site in Sidmouth, and also welcomes volunteers on a drop-in basis to its Butterfly Garden Thursdays - a weekly gardening project running all year round.

The Donkey Sanctuary’s Volunteer Days are free events, however, booking is required. No experience is necessary, just a reasonable level of fitness and volunteers must be over the age of 16. Gloves, tools and hot drinks will be provided, but please wear sturdy footwear and appropriate outdoor clothing. Volunteers should bring a packed lunch.

For further information and to book a place on The Donkey Sanctuary’s volunteering days, please contact Ruth Angell on 01395 573162 or

Uganda becomes latest African nation to ban donkey skin trade

24 August 2017

Uganda has become the latest country to protect its working donkey population by banning the trade in donkey skins in a strongly-worded statement. The move has been applauded by The Donkey Sanctuary which has been leading efforts to halt the trade.

The huge demand from China for a traditional medicine called ejiao, made from donkey skins, is resulting in donkey-dependent communities around the world being targeted by skin traders, with a legal trade being supplemented by an extensive illegal trade in stolen and slaughtered donkeys.

Uganda announced the move via a letter from the Permanent Secretary, Pius Kasajja, at the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries. Uganda’s decision to ban the trade was made due to the “...negative consequences..” that the trade was having “.. mainly on the poor households, the women and the youth that depend on the donkey for transporting water, firewood, construction materials, people, farm produce, livestock feed, and for transporting harvests to the market.”

The Permanent Secretary added that the ban would “…protect and preserve the donkey for the benefit of the communities that depend on it.”

Alex Mayers, Head of Programmes at The Donkey Sanctuary said: “We applaud the stand being taken Uganda to protect its working donkey population. The value it has placed on its donkeys is the role they have in supporting poor communities, women and children and providing them with a living and livelihood. This is not something you can put a price on and it is worth a great deal more than a donkey’s skin.”

The Permanent Secretary notified all regions that donkey sales and purchases for slaughter would stop, donkey slaughterhouses were to be closed “indefinitely with immediate effect”, sellers/buyers of more than three donkeys would need to show that they were being used for “agricultural purposes” and donkeys purchased in Botswana would be prohibited from being exported to neighbouring countries.

Mike Baker, Chief Executive of The Donkey Sanctuary, added: "This news is fantastic. Uganda was becoming a hub for the trade and the government deserve real credit for taking such swift action."

Act now

Help us give the donkeys the voice they need right now. Stand with us on this issue and show that you back our recommendations.

Find out how you can help now

Find out more about The Donkey Sanctuary's Under The Skin report and what is being done to tackle the situation.

Major Undercover Investigation Reveals Lawless' Donkey Skin Trade in Africa

24 August 2017

A shocking undercover investigation in Southern Africa has strengthened calls for an immediate halt to the donkey skin trade with The Donkey Sanctuary describing it as “...lawless, unscrupulous and destroying peoples livelihoods.”

The respected organisation, Oxpeckers Investigative Environmental Journalism has lifted the lid on the skin trade in Botswana in the first of a series of undercover investigations carried out in collaboration with The Donkey Sanctuary. The Oxpeckers research has placed the increasingly unsustainable trade under a spotlight, where theft and poaching of donkeys is rife and where the escalating value of a donkey’s hide is placing a shrinking donkey population at ever-increasing risk.

The Donkey Sanctuary’s Under The Skin report, launched in January this year, was the first to reveal the extent of the donkey skin trade, which was driven by an escalating demand for the traditional Chinese remedy known as ejiao, made from the collagen in a donkey’s skin.

The charity has been campaigning for the unregulated trade to be halted because of the increasing threat that it poses to donkey welfare and donkey-dependent communities around the world.

Graphic image warning in the link

This undercover investigation, which can be read in full on - - is the first to reveal how the trade works and the huge sums that traders are making from it.

Alex Mayers, Head of Programmes at The Donkey Sanctuary said; “This is a shocking but highly revealing investigation into the trade and one which shows it is entirely out of control and has to stop. The animal welfare issues are almost beyond belief – donkeys that are starving to death, and enduring unimaginably stressful conditions.

"Alongside this are economic, criminal, environmental and social concerns which are fast becoming crises in themselves. It is lawless, unscrupulous and destroying people’s livelihoods. If unchecked, it will soon destabilise whole communities.”

Mike Baker, Chief Executive of The Donkey Sanctuary, added: "This report lifts the lid on the shocking amount of the trade that goes on out of sight – it is further evidence of why such urgent action is needed. We applaud the action taken by Governments in some countries to stop the trade, but where it continues illegally it must be enforced."

The scale of the animal welfare problem associated with the trade in Botswana was made clear in June 2017 when the authorities raided the Chinese-operated Bo Chang donkey abattoir near Francistown in Botswana. This facility was only opened in April 2017, but within two months was slaughtering 588 donkeys a month.

The raid discovered 452 starving and emaciated donkeys, with no food or water and penned up awaiting slaughter. The animals were so hungry they had eaten all the bark from the trees and even the fur from the backs of the other donkeys. Most of the animals were simply too weak or ill to survive and were put to sleep. Huge pits containing the rotting remains of hundreds of donkeys were also discovered, with the effluent from decomposing animals trickling into the main local river.

The Chinese operator of the abattoir was arrested and investigated for cruelty to animals, but was fined a nominal 50 Pula (£3.80). A senior police official working on the case was quoted as saying that it was a “bit complicated” owing to the large number of individuals involved in the trade.

The Oxpeckers investigation also uncovered evidence which suggests that despite Botswana’s recent ban on the export of donkey skin, the trade has gone underground – A truckload of 1,200 hides on its way to Zimbabwe was recently seized in Botswana.

Act now

Help us give the donkeys the voice they need right now. Stand with us on this issue and show that you back our recommendations.

Find out how you can help now

Find out more about The Donkey Sanctuary's Under The Skin report and what is being done to tackle the situation.

Volunteers wanted to build boxes for Devon’s wildlife

14 August 2017

The Donkey Sanctuary is welcoming volunteers to its Woodland Box Volunteer Day near Sidmouth on Wednesday 23 August from 10am to 4pm.

Volunteers are needed to help build and put up nest boxes for dormice, bats and woodland birds on Donkey Sanctuary land at Paccombe Farm in Harcombe, near Sidbury, which is home to almost 400 donkeys and surrounded by 93 acres of amazing woodland.

As well as creating habitat and helping the charity monitor these species, volunteers will get the opportunity to meet the Sanctuary’s donkeys, who benefit from these projects through environmental enrichment and a healthy ecosystem.

Ruth Angell, The Donkey Sanctuary’s wildlife and conservation manager says: ‘Each month I run a wildlife and conservation volunteer day, which can include outdoor practical tasks such as gardening, woodland management, hedge laying and hedge planting, willow weaving and pond restoration. These events are totally reliant on volunteers and are a fantastic opportunity to meet like-minded people, share and learn skills, and have fun.’

The Donkey Sanctuary will also be holding a Himalayan Balsam Clearance Volunteer Day on Wednesday 6 September at East Axnoller Farm in Dorset, and welcomes volunteers on a drop-in basis to its Butterfly Garden Thursdays - a weekly gardening project running all year round.

The Donkey Sanctuary’s Volunteer Days are free events, however, booking is recommended. No experience is necessary, just a reasonable level of fitness and volunteers must be over the age of 16. Gloves, tools and hot drinks will be provided, but please wear sturdy footwear and appropriate outdoor clothing. Volunteers should bring a packed lunch.

For further information and to book a place on The Donkey Sanctuary’s volunteering days, please contact Ruth Angell on 01395 573162 or

Enrichment for full health and vigour

11 August 2017

Here in Birmingham we are always looking for ways to enrich the lives of our donkeys and variety in their diet is a great way to encourage a healthy appetite. Donkeys are natural foragers, using smell and touch to seek out new taste experiences and they love to explore different tastes and textures.

The first of the five animal freedoms is Freedom from hunger or thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour. Fruit and vegetables can be fed in small amounts and carrots, apples, bananas, pears, turnips and swedes are all safe and usually enjoyed by donkeys.

Potatoes and anything from the brassica family, onions, leeks, garlic, and stoned fruit should be avoided as should old, fermented or mouldy items. For more information on what to feed your donkeys see below, External Links: What to feed your donkeys.

We have eighteen donkeys here and decided to try a feed of swedes. Nine swedes had a hole put through the middle (using an apple corer) and were threaded onto a twine. The twine was then looped over the fence posts around our outside play area.

The donkeys were in the top field when the swedes were put out and watched inquisitively. When the gate was opened they marched through the gate with quite a purpose. They could smell something new in the air.

They took a close look at the swedes and a few good sniffs before being convinced they were safe to eat but once started there was no stopping them. Using their teeth and the fence to push against they proceeded to break the swedes up into bite size pieces. They were all keen to try and each donkey had a turn.

It took half an hour and a lot of crunching for eighteen donkeys to eat nine swedes carefully watched over by our grooms. There was a bit of pushing around the fence but on the whole they were very well behaved and shared the new experience well.

Having demolished the new vegetable and enjoyed the taste they returned to mooching about the field in search of their next taste challenge.

External links: What to feed your donkeys

The Donkey Sanctuary Summer Fair

3 August 2017

When: Sunday 13 August, from 10:00am until 4:00pm.

Where: The Donkey Sanctuary, Slade House Farm, Sidmouth, Devon, EX10 0NU

Join The Donkey Sanctuary at its Summer Fair for a fun-filled day with activities for the whole family to enjoy. Highlights include donkey meet and greets, trailer rides, Punch and Judy, fun stalls and games, go-karting, a climbing wall, archery, fire brigade demonstration, bouncy castles, face painting and glitter tattoos, a free prize draw, award winning food and drink and a shopping village to treat yourself in.

Throughout the day, there will be live music from local rock-band, Leave Before Dawn and singer songwriter, Anna Hamill, as well as live entertainment from Seaton's community samba band, Sunshine Samba, so be prepared to show off those best dance moves.

Chris Phillips of The Donkey Sanctuary said: “Come on down and join us for this action-packed day. We guarantee that there will be something for everyone in the family. It’s going to be a super day, perhaps even the highlight of your summer!”

Admission for this event is £1 per adult with children under 12 going free, payable at the entrance gate. Parking is free. For information about this event, please contact The Donkey Sanctuary’s Events Team on: 01395 573156 or email, or visit

The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth is open seven days a week from 9am. It holds events and open days throughout the year and all proceeds go towards The Donkey Sanctuary’s work in the community and worldwide.