The extension and education methods implemented for sustaining the health and welfare of working donkeys in India
In India the majority of donkeys are used as pack animals to carry sand, gravel, debris and bricks especially in brick kilns and also goods up the hill in pilgrimage places. Like many of the developing countries the donkeys working in India suffer tremendous abuse, injury and pain. Harness wounds and lameness are common due to improper harness, overloading and lack of knowledge about care and management among the owners. This paper discusses the extension methods that were used and found to be effective with an aim to improve the condition of the donkeys, help them become wound free and prevent suffering. The donkey owners were given practical lessons on how to fit a harness properly, donuts (circular protectors), padding materials and how to make good U-shaped back protectors. A video film was made for this purpose and shown to the owners. Distributing soft cotton hobbles made from fabric waste prevented the hobble wounds. Re-homing abandoned donkeys to good owners and rewarding the owners for best-kept donkeys has encouraged the owners to keep their donkeys in good condition, wound free and fit. Distribution of hoof picks (modified screw drivers) encouraged owners to pick out donkeys' feet regularly to prevent lameness due to puncture wounds and hoof abscesses caused by thorns and sharp objects. Enthusiastic owners were picked and given training in basic donkey care. Efforts were taken to promote correct treatments and also encourage the use of readily available natural herbal products. A cartoon film, study materials in the form of pictures and cartoons were used to evoke interest among the donkey owner's children in basic donkey care. Public awareness included distributing storybooks, leaflets, organising camps at local agricultural and equine fairs and publishing articles in newspapers. A marked improvement in the donkeys' status, health, condition and owners care for their donkey has become a reality due to the implementation of extension and education activities.