The emergence of free-roaming donkey populations globally has brought novel challenges for conservationists, land managers and animal welfarists alike. Donkeys (Equus asinus) are classified as ‘alien’ in sixteen countries where they are listed as being introduced by humans (IUCN-GISD 2020), and considered ‘invasive’ in countries where they are non-native and have potential to act as a threat to native biodiversity and natural ecosystems (McNeely et al. 2001). As non-native species, free-roaming donkeys are often framed as illegitimate and ‘out of place’. In places where they are deemed too numerous, donkeys are assigned labels such as ‘pest’ or ‘vermin’, further entrenching ideas of illegitimacy (Bough 2006, 2016; Celermajer and Wallach 2019). However, there has been limited research on the interface between science, policy and management for free-roaming donkeys, including the kinds of logics and rationales that are used to either support or denounce their presence in different geographical and ecological contexts.
We used both qualitative and quantitative techniques to review over 100 scientific articles, which were identified using a snowball technique and key search terms; manually checking each article to ensure its relevance. For the quantitative analysis, articles were classified under the following categories: Publication date; Country of study; Discipline of article; Type of article (field-based; literature-based or management-based); Biome (of study area); Focus of impact (whether impacts where measured/discussed with specific reference to donkeys, or for wider groups of species); Evidencing impact (whether an article measured environmental impact, discussed environmental impact or referred to presence only). All articles were qualitatively reviewed using NVivo (v.12.0) for categorical and thematic analysis as well as critical discourse analysis. This involved the identification of different issues that regularly appeared in the literature, ascribing fine-grade codes or ‘topic codes’. We then worked from topics to themes, systematically coding these themes while reflecting on meanings, positionality and underlying agendas. We also assessed the overall framing of the article, examining the extent to which donkeys were framed in positive, negative or neutral terms.
The project includes an extensive review of the scientific literature pertaining to the place and role of free-roaming donkeys. We critically examined the logics and rationales that are used to either support or denounce donkey presence in particular landscapes and discuss their ‘ecological belonging’ in relation to such contexts. Our findings indicate that free-roaming donkeys are largely understudied, misunderstood and clouded by dichotomous points of view, different conservation agendas and the presence of other ‘higher value’ species in the same habitats. We identify a critical need for more in-depth, site-specific studies on free-roaming donkeys, using tools and techniques from across the social and natural sciences. Such efforts would offer a richer, more holistic and comprehensive picture of free-roaming donkeys, considering both human and animal perspectives and the wider environment. This has important implications for generating long-term sustainable management solutions for free-roaming donkeys.
For thousands of years, the donkey (Equus asinus) has played an essential role in human society, underpinning the earliest forms of civilisation, facilitating critical trade networks, contributing to agricultural development, construction and mining. However, with the rise of motorised transport and agricultural machinery, the donkey was gradually turned loose in many places, and left free to roam. The emergence of free-roaming donkey populations has brought novel challenges for conservationists, land managers and animal welfarists alike. In many places they are categorised as ‘non-native’ and so framed as illegitimate and ‘out of place’.
This project consists of a critical review of academic literature, grey literature (institutional reports, working papers, government documents), media reports, and communications with field researchers and practitioners. Articles were identified using a snowball technique (Echeverri et al., 2018), using key search phrases (‘feral donkey’, ‘wild burro’, ‘feral equus asinus’, ‘free-roaming donkey’, ‘free-ranging donkey’, ‘wild donkey’). These articles were then checked for their relevance. Articles were treated as both information sources (to elicit empirical knowledge) and as cultural artefacts (Bowen, 2009; Clarke, 2005) for categorical and thematic analysis as well as critical discourse analysis. Using these articles as representations of societal and scholarly discourse, we systematically reviewed the use of donkey labels and elicited their meaning, in order to reveal inconsistencies and underlying agendas.
This project explores the social status of free-roaming donkeys, including how they are perceived, categorised and managed. It explores unique case studies of free-roaming donkeys around the world, including ‘wild burros in America’, ‘rewilded donkeys in Europe’, and ‘street donkeys in Brazil’. It considers how free-roaming donkeys are culturally and ecologically entangled within different landscapes, and then discusses how they might ‘belong’ to those landscapes. It finds that more attention needs to be given to the spaces and places that donkeys create and contribute to, as well as those they disrupt and challenge.
The endangerment of extinction of most donkeys’ breeds in Europe deems for a better characterization of the genetic diversity of these breeds and understanding the reasons for its declining numbers, biologically and socioeconomically. The main purpose of this study is to predict the viability of the Miranda breed, identify the variables that may be crucial for conservation, and suggest new management strategies. To achieve these aims, pedigree records were analysed and socioeconomic features of herds and owners were typified to identify current environmental and management factors affecting the breeds’ future. The available data showed that, under the current management, this breed faces extinction in the next 50 years. Identified parameters suggested that, keeping all the other variables at the current level, it would be needed to cumulatively:
The age pyramid of the breed is unbalanced and, without the implementation of an energetic strategy for breeding, in a few years the lack of replacement animals may raise a huge constraint to conservation programs. The analysis showed an important loss of founder genetic diversity, perceived by the low effective number of founders compared to the real number of founders. Less than 55% of the 580 adult females registered in the Studbook ever foaled and the average foaling rate per jenny was only 1.05. This is mainly due to social and demographic changes, which dictated the abandon of donkeys as a rural workforce. Most owners, especially the older ones possessing one or two animals, do not foresee the need to replace their animals in their lifetime and do not want the inconvenience of managing late gestation and raising foals. The relatively long generation intervals observed enhance the importance for a rapid onset of the recovery programs, since it will take time just to replace the current population and even more to rejuvenate it.
In Portugal, donkeys represent a large legacy of social, cultural, economic and ecological importance. The only native breed of donkeys, the Miranda Donkey, is composed by a small number of animals. The aim of this study was to evaluate the parasitic infection, particularly the variation in the rate of positivity, the level of parasitic infection (LPI) and the biodiversity of intestinal parasites in a population of 62 Miranda donkeys, exposed to an anti-parasitic control every 6 months, with subcutaneous injection of ivermectin 2% at the dosage of 1 ml/50 Kg BW, between July 2005 and February 2010. During this period, there was a decrease in the positivity rate, from 87% (54/62) in 2005 to 32% (20/62) in 2010, as well as a decrease in the LPI. In 2005, 70,4% of the infected animals had levels higher than 1000 eggs per gram (EPG), considered a high LPI and in 2010, 75% of the infected animals had levels under 500 EPG, low LPI. Biodiversity also decreased during this period, namely the decrease of Strongylinae in relation to Cyathostominae. Considering that consistent levels of parasitic infection are still observed in this population and that the most observed Strongylidae are the ones of genus Cyathostomum sensu latum, these results are worrying because these agents are frequently referred by its ability to acquire resistance to anti-parasitic drugs.
To determine the disposition of a bolus of meloxicam (administered IV) in horses and donkeys (Equus asinus) and compare the relative pharmacokinetic variables between the species.
5 clinically normal horses and 5 clinically normal donkeys.
Blood samples were collected before and after IV administration of a bolus of meloxicam (0.6 mg/kg). Serum meloxicam concentrations were determined in triplicate via high-performance liquid chromatography. The serum concentration-time curve for each horse and donkey was analyzed separately to estimate standard noncompartmental pharmacokinetic variables.
In horses and donkeys, mean ± SD area under the curve was 18.8 ± 7.31 μg/mL/h and 4.6 ± 2.55 μg/mL/h, respectively; mean residence time (MRT) was 9.6 ± 9.24 hours and 0.6 ± 0.36 hours, respectively. Total body clearance (CLT) was 34.7 ± 9.21 mL/kg/h in horses and 187.9 ± 147.26 mL/kg/h in donkeys. Volume of distribution at steady state (VDSS) was 270 ± 160.5 mL/kg in horses and 93.2 ± 33.74 mL/kg in donkeys. All values, except VDSS, were significantly different between donkeys and horses.
Conclusions and clinical relevance
The small VDSS of meloxicam in horses and donkeys (attributed to high protein binding) was similar to values determined for other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Compared with other species, horses had a much shorter MRT and greater CLT for meloxicam, indicating a rapid elimination of the drug from plasma; the even shorter MRT and greater CLT of meloxicam in donkeys, compared with horses, may make the use of the drug in this species impractical.
In the west of the Zamora Province in Castilla y León region, one of the most rural and isolated areas of Spain, the Zamorano – Leonés donkey – a native endangered breed -is still playing a central role in the traditional daily agriculture activities practiced by the local inhabitants. In February 2010 a study was carried out to understand the prevalence of equine piroplasmosis in the population of Zamorano – Leonés Donkey, collecting blood samples from 86 animals in 13 villages in the Zamora Proviince. Equine piroplasmosis is a tick-borne disease of equids, caused by Theileria equi and Babesia caballi. These intraerythrocytic parasites are responsible for a high morbidity and mortality in equids. The cELISA tests (competitive – inhibition Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay) revealed a positive seroprevalence of 21%, with 8 of the 86 donkeys positive for Theileria equi (9.3%), 10 for Babesia caballi (11.7%) and one of these 18 animals positive for both. The results of this study clearly demonstrate the importance of equine piroplasmosis affecting the Zamorano – Leonés donkey population. As far as we know this is the first study on intra-erythrocytic parasites in endangered Iberian breeds of donkeys and the results obtained reveal its importance in order to preserve this unique genetic heritage.
The number of donkeys and mules throughout the world is stable, and awareness of their use and concern for welfare, pain recognition and treatment are receiving increasing veterinary interest. Therefore, accurate information about anaesthesia and analgesia in donkeys and mules is important to ever more equine practitioners. Since donkeys are physiologically and pharmacologically different from horses, knowledge on species specific aspects of anaesthesia and analgesia are very important. Mules combine elements from both donkey and horse backgrounds, leading to great diversity in size, temperament and body type. Physiologically, they seem to resemble horses more than donkeys. This review highlights the current knowledge on various anaesthetic and analgesic approaches in donkeys and mules. There is still much information that is not available about donkeys; in many circumstances, the clinician must use available equine information to treat the patient, while monitoring carefully to observe for differences in response to therapy compared to the horse.
The Veterinary Care of the Horse. Since the second edition was published in 2006 much has changed in equine veterinary medicine and surgery. Our understanding of diseases that affect horses continues to increase and with this knowledge comes the opportunity to improve our management and treatment of both familiar and newly recognized conditions.
The aim of this book is to bring the reader up-to-date with these developments while still presenting the information in the easy-to-read format that was popular with the first two editions.
For ease of reference, each condition is explained under headings which include the causes, clinical signs, diagnosis, treatment, prevention and prognosis.
It is appreciated that it is not always easy to remember every detail of the vet's instructions when coping with a sick or injured horse. For this reason, recommendations regarding everyday procedures such as cleaning a wound, poulticing and bandaging are laid out in a step-by-step format.
Subjects such as the prepurchase examination, choosing horse insurance and the use of medication in the competition horse are covered in some depth together with complementary therapies and the veterinary care of the donkey.
Throughout the book, the text is accompanied by informative line drawings and numerous photographs and is an essential book for everyone concerned with the care and management of horses.
The UK public and veterinary profession often think of the equine charity sector as dealing with issues directly related to the UK equine population - overproduction, rehoming, shelter and welfare. However, The Donkey Sanctuary, like many UK-based equine charities, also works in Europe and further afield to try to address a much broader range of issues.