News

Kenya's Donkeys Finally Receive Some Protection

Jill Craig

In today's modern world, it is easy to overlook some of the hardest working members of the working class. Donkeys remain a staple of everyday life in many places, but they are often overworked, neglected and mistreated. Now, animal protection groups in Kenya are speaking up for the beasts of burden.

There are approximately 600,000 donkeys in Kenya, the majority of whom move heavy carts filled with water containers, firewood and other necessary supplies for their owners.

This is not a bucolic existence. These animals live in crowded conditions, in close contact with stray dogs sometimes infected with rabies. They are occasionally struck by cars on busy highways, are underfed and occasionally beaten.

Jean Gilchrist is the director of the Kenya Society for the Protection and Care of Animals. She has worked with the organization for 26 years, helping to improve the quality of life for animals, including donkeys.

"It's not just in Kenya either," said Gilchrist.  "It's something that happens worldwide. India, Ethiopia, Mexico, I don't know, it's something about the donkey that, their role in life, which is basically with the poor people who are scraping a living."

Gilchrist compares donkeys to rental cars, battered and overworked with no regard for their well-being.

"And, very often, the donkeys are hired out to young men that don't have jobs," noted Gilchrist.  "And, they don't care if the donkey collapses and dies. And, a lot of them get beaten so badly, as well, even if they're running as fast as they can."

To alleviate this suffering, a British charity called the Donkey Sanctuary has organized mobile health clinics around Kenya, treating thousands of donkeys since 1994.

Tabitha Wainaina, a veterinarian, has volunteered in the clinics for the last five years.

"These animals are viewed as working animals," said Wainaina.  "So the attitude is, as long as they get the work done, then a lot of attention is not paid to their medical care and the kind of nutrition they are getting and the kind of shelter they are being provided with."

Donkeys are often injured by ill-fitting and improper harnesses. Many owners simply put a rope around the donkey's neck, causing painful sores when the animal hauls heavy carts.

Daniel Njuguna works for the Donkey Sanctuary, teaching owners how to make their own harnesses from local materials, like blankets, pieces of mattress, or old clothes.

"I help them by telling them, do your donkey like this. Harnessing like this, not that way. I show them how to do it," said Njuguna.

Njuguna is a vigilant advocate for the donkeys and tries to stop abuse wherever he sees it, including around his own village. It is not easy.

"I tell them, don't hit your donkey," Njuguna added.  "Some of them say, 'No, it is mine! I can do what I like!'"

Donkeys are rarely vaccinated, making them highly susceptible to rabies, tetanus, African horse sickness and worms.

But Wainaina says owners are starting to realize the benefits of vaccinations.

"Yes, the moment they are properly educated about the benefits of taking care of their animals, then they realize that the animal is actually going to work better and is going to live longer," Wainaina noted.  "And that will translate to eventually, better economic output for them."

For all their efforts, volunteers with the Donkey Sanctuary abide by a very simple motto, "Happy Donkey, Happy Owner."

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Jerry C
March 12, 2012 8:42 PM
Informative article showing the plight of the beasts of burden.

by: Robert G
March 02, 2012 9:42 AM
Solid cheap practical help in community settings. Should be more of this!

by: Purple trees
March 01, 2012 1:09 PM
Don't hate donkeys ay

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs