Introducing The Tanzania Donkey Project

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Introducing The Tanzania Donkey Project

Tue 27th Nov 2018

WVS vets are currently running a pilot project in Bukombe, Tanzania, examining the welfare of working donkeys, treating wounds and educating the local community. This exciting project is headed up by Dr Ilona and Dr Aswin from WVS India and Dr Emma Rayner our International Research Manager, and is set to have a real impact for these hardworking animals and the families that rely on them. Here's what it's all about!

The team are working in conjunction with local charity Tanzania Humane Animal Charity to provide this vital service and establish how we can further help these animals. After a visit with the District Commissioner of Bukombe District and enthusiastic discussions about the project plans, our vets set out to see the donkeys. It is incredibly encouraging to have the local government on board with the project and to show this support. 

Donkeys in this region are mainly used to carry bricks, sand and stone and are therefore pulling heavy carts for much of the day. These poorly fitted carts lead to yoke wounds where the wooden bar (yoke) is constantly pressing on the back of the donkeys’ necks.

The team began to implement carefully designed doughnut bandages to tackle this problem. The doughnut bandages are made with a sturdy core such as a flexible piece of pipe and then thin strips of material are wrapped around the core to create the inner padding. A final outer layer is then wrapped around which can be removed and changed when the bandage gets dirty.

The unique shape of these doughnuts is designed to sit around a wound rather than press on it which would prevent healing. By using a doughnut, the wound sits in the middle and the bandage holds the wooden yoke up and away from the wound. For animals that do not have yoke wounds, the bandage cushions and protects against these developing. 

This simple yet effective tool is a lifeline for these animals. Owners have been educated on the purpose of these bandages and workshops run by our team have even enabled them to help make them to supply their own donkeys and others with this aid. Owners were also shown how to clean and look after the wounds on their animals and showed them how to correctly secure the bandages on to the harness to protect the wounds.

The donkey owners of Bukombe were incredibly receptive to the idea and keen to continue making the doughnuts once they learned how much of a positive difference this can have for their animals’ welfare. They even took part in video workshops with the supported charity for our teams to use in other parts of the world where this occurs to help educate others in local group meetings. The owners were all very interactive during the educational sessions and even made their own doughnuts at the end of the workshop to take home for their carts. 

Our team and the vets from Tanzania Humane Animal Charity will be following up on the cases seen so far to monitor the improvement of the wounds and use of the bandages with the aims of improving donkey welfare and find both short-term and long-term solutions for this community.

We are thrilled to have received an invitation from the local government to return again in the future for another donkey project such as this. 

Make sure you keep an eye on our blog for Dr Ilona’s diaries from the first two weeks and see our social media for photos, videos and interviews with donkey owners are the team.