The world has changed. It has changed so rapidly, in some ways good, and in other ways not so good. So much innovation and technology has made life much easier for the human race, yet at the same time more complex. The simple life of riding on carts pulled by horses, cows or donkeys has nearly been swallowed up by a life of cars, trains and airplanes. The use of cows or donkeys in ploughing the fields has been replaced by the use of tractors. But not all societies have progressed from the use of such animals in daily life, in other communities, donkeys and other animals are still an integral part of life. As such, it important to insist that the lives of working animals are sustained, not just for the sake of human use and livelihood, but for the sake of the animals themselves and in as homage to nature.
According to Prof. Alan Guthrie at The University of Pretoria, Africa alone has over 13 million equids and 75% of them are in sub-Saharan Africa. In the past few years, violations against the well-being of the donkeys has been on the rise due to various factors but the biggest threat emanates from the Asian market for Ejiao, a potion that is made from donkey skins for various uses.
In retaliation, across the world, the movement to protect and improve the welfare of donkeys has been gaining momentum and ALL CREATURES has joined the cavalry. In 2016, ALL CREATURES took up a project in partnership with The Donkey Sanctuary to look into the welfare of donkeys in “Tete” Mozambique. ALL CREATURES was assigned to run a scoping exercise in the area on behalf of The Donkey Sanctuary. Tete, Mozambique is located in the north where it is far removed from any animal welfare organizations. ALL CREATURES which has its base in Lilongwe Malawi is only a couple of hundred kilometers away, which makes it more logistically feasible to tackle the welfare issues that have been reported in Tete from the base in Malawi. And so, in agreement with the Mozambique Welfare Society, ALL CREATURES took on the task.
The scoping exercise in Tete is determined to span over three months and cover eight districts in Mozambique namely; Tete Town, Changara, Cahorrabassa, Magoe, Moatize, Chiuta, Marara and Angonia. So far, the project has run for a little over two months through an ALL CREATURES consultant in the area. Mozambique has many communities where donkeys are still widely used in the people’s daily endeavors. It has been intriguing to note from our study that rearing of donkeys in Mozambique is not an age old tradition, oral tradition has it that donkeys were introduced into the society by people who after fleeing the war and settling in other countries, returned to Mozambique with donkeys from areas such as South Africa, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Our scoping work seeks to clearly mark out what the traditional uses of the donkeys are in the area as well as the cultures that involve donkeys. The project will also establish the number of donkeys that the area has, their distribution and also their age and sex structure. Although the project is still in progress, we have some of this information from the areas we have covered do far. ALL CREATURES finds that the use of donkeys in our area of study includes the use of donkeys as a medium for trade where donkeys may be exchanged for cows or other items. Donkeys are also used for transportation mainly of farm produce and also to run household errands such as taking patients to the hospital. Sometimes the donkeys are hired out for commercial gain but this is minimal.
From our study, it appears that there is indeed a vast array of welfare problems that are in play in the area. The study indicates that not many have access to veterinary services and that due to the misplaced notion that donkeys do not get sick, sick animals are not given the best attention. This is especially so for donkeys in old age, when asked whether or not they prefer to put these frail aging animals to sleep, a huge majority of the owners said not, they wait for them to die even though the animal may be suffering from ailments that go untreated. Other health problems that go untreated include; internal parasites, foot rot etc. We find that what also contributes to this is the fact that there is no strategy by the country’s Ministry of Agriculture to promote animal welfare, there are no campaign run and no vaccinations offered.
Other ills faced by the donkeys also include early termination of pregnancies; the locals themselves attribute this to the fact that the donkeys are over worked. Other deaths in donkeys are said to be caused by unscrupulous people who pretend to know how to castrate donkeys but a large number of donkeys end up dying from the castrations. It is evident that there is need for such services but there are no trained professionals conducting them which is why the charlatans take advantage of the matter.
The donkeys are provided with very poor housing facilities. They are often kept in muddy enclosures, they are sometimes put in the same enclosures with cows or are tethered to a tree. Donkeys are also left to graze unsupervised, which leads to cruelty suffered at the hand of the general public. Harrowing stories of scalded or poisoned donkeys are not uncommon. The communities themselves are also suffering as there has been a rise in donkey thefts which are attributed to the Chinese. And also, a new trend of consuming donkey meat has risen in the area and more often than not, the meat is unexamined which poses serious health threats to the people.
Information from the scoping will help ALL CREATURES and The Donkey Sanctuary to assess the feasibility of starting a donkey welfare project in the area. It is the sincere hope of ALL CREATURES that a donkey welfare project in Mozambique be established out of these findings. As our consultant is gathering information of the donkeys primarily, he will also seek out networks that can promote the welfare of donkeys in the area. The information will also help ALL CREATURES establish, on behalf of The Donkey Sanctuary, the possible partners in the area and should a project start, we will also employ the use of the said networks.
By ALL CREATURES