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Two ex-working donkeys have come into our care recently – Margarita who is a large grey mare, and Huey Louis, a smaller brown gelding. Both donkeys have age related issues meaning that they needed extra special care. The owner knew they could no longer work and was unable to provide them with the specialist attention they both needed and asked for our help.

The donkeys were very underweight when they arrived but with the right treatments, food and additional help, they’ve made a lot of progress. Their true characters that have emerged are interesting too.

Margarita can only be described as a bit of a diva! Now full of energy, she’s quite a bossy girl who likes to be the centre of attention with the other donkeys! She loves her food so much that we have to make it very wet to slow her eating habits down. If she has to wait outside the barn for any reason, the look on her face is so amusing – sometimes she seems to be sulking while at other times she looks cross or upset.

On the other hand, Huey Louis is very confident, calm and inquisitive. He likes to make himself known to you although, unlike Margarita, is quite happy for her to get the attention. He gives us the impression that he’ll do anything for a quiet life! As soon as he arrived in our New Arrivals Unit, unlike the others who went exploring their new surroundings, he went straight to the chopped straw in the trough and started eating.

They’re both such lovable characters who, after giving people so much enjoyment throughout their lives, definitely deserve a well-earned rest and lots of special care. You know they will get that from us!



On one of our Community Programme visits in November, we were treating a group of donkeys and met one in particular who can only be described as a bit of a nuisance!

The gorgeous looking, typical big Cypriot donkey, was so easy to handle and well behaved, we didn't think twice about leaving him to wander around the field while we attended to the other donkeys.

We should have known better as he decided that all of the equipment we had in the back of our truck, just had to be removed or eaten! Totally ignoring anything we said, arm waving and even taking him to another area, he kept going back to the truck.

Grabbing boxes, the cool box containing our drinks and food, even the truck cover, nothing was safe! Eventually, one of us had to stand guard the whole time! A logical thing to have done would have been to put a head collar on him and tie him up somewhere, but as he had us all in fits of laughter, we just couldn't bring ourselves to do it.

He actually managed to train us - 'keep scratching my neck and bottom and I promise I'll leave things alone'! We'd love to take him home with us but nothing would be safe. Perhaps we should just walk in the field next year rather than drive?

An irresistable nuisance


Several years ago, a young veterinary student called Silke, spent time with us gaining some work experience. She loved the donkeys and told her parents all about them and they later came to visit us. Since then, Silke's mother, Renata, comes to Cyprus most years as a swimming coach and makes sure she comes to say hello and see the donkeys.

This year, she brought two colleagues with her, Franz and Ida. Eighteen-year-old Ida is a tennis coach who also plays the ukulele (a small type of violin) and sings. When Ida went up to see the donkeys, she asked if she could sing them a song and play her instrument, which we said she could even though we didn't know what the donkeys would think!

Well they loved it! Chloe and Socrates in particular, really enjoyed the music and Hercules came out of the barn especially to get close.

It's a well known fact that many animals like the sound of certain music and ours certainly proved it! Thank you Ida and thank you Renata for introducing us to Ida.

Watch the video here

A Personal Performance


We have a few donkeys with poor eyesight and all of them cope really well. Harry Potter and George are two of them and until recently, they lived in different paddocks.

Harry has been with us since 2005 and was already blind in one eye. George has been with us since 2013 and has difficulty in seeing things near to him. Although he took care of our Helena when she was a tiny foal, he's always been a loner and generally stayed out of the way, not even wanting lots of cuddles.

Harry too was a loner and could often be a little nervous of everything and everyone. We all felt a bit sorry for both of them and as Harry was getting older, we moved him into the Special Needs group. Amazingly, both donkeys seemed to sense they couldn't see properly and quickly become good friends.

Their whole personalities have changed too and both donkeys seem more confident, coming up to us for cuddles and scratches and the cheeky side of George is really coming out!

Due to their eyesight issues, neither donkey is very active. Consequently, we're always having to keep any eye on their weight although they're often seen side by side at the feed trough doing their favourite hobby - eating! It's lovely to see the two soul mates enjoying each other's company and being so happy.

George & Harry


It's easy for us to sometimes forget the improvements we achieve with our rescued donkeys. Two examples of how care and devotion can not only improve a donkeys physical welfare, but also their mental well-being, are Yiannis and Aspro.

You've just read about dear old Aspro and you'll remember reading about Yiannis, the terrified young donkey who came into our care last year. Yiannis has always been the most inquisitive donkey we've met and recently demonstrated to us how he has been watching his best friend Helena.

While we were doing the monthly weighing, one of the carers took off her fleece jacket and put it on the feed trough next to the weigh scales. We'd already weighed Yiannis (who is so confident about this now) when suddenly we caught him with the jacket in his mouth and just about to run off around the paddock with it! Ironically, we only had to say 'Yiannis, drop that' and he did! He looked just like someone who had been caught with their hand in the sweet jar!

Seen here in the photograph with some of his pals, you'd ever think it was the same donkey who would risk life and limb to get away from humans, what a difference a year makes.

Before & After


Similarly, to Santorini and Rhodes, donkeys are used to provide rides to tourists in the small town of Mijas in Spain. For many years, The Donkey Sanctuary worked hard to try to improve welfare conditions, using several different approaches. In more recent times, our sister charity El Refugio del Burrito, has made progress with many of the owners and, importantly, the local Town Hall.

While there continues to be concerns and required improvements, El Refugio have made progress. A signed agreement is in place giving guidelines that the donkey owners must adhere too as well as giving El Refugio access to check the overnight donkey accommodation with their vet. The owners are also under strict instruction not to work any donkey that is lame, has wounds or is unfit to work. The shelter area has improved and owners are instructed to take the donkeys to the water trough regularly throughout the day.

El Refugio are now pushing for improvements to the overnight accommodation and have provided the Town Hall with drawings of suitable buildings of the correct size. There has been a gradual increase in the number of owners who now seek veterinary care for their donkeys, with a noticeable decrease in the number of hoof problems and wounds.

One area that is proving to be incredibly difficult to deal with is persuading the owners to castrate the donkeys. Almost of all of them are stallions and, due to their tendency to be aggressive toward each other, the donkeys need to be tied up very close to the wall on a short rope to prevent them attacking each other. If castrated, the donkeys’ temperament would be calmer and they could then be giving more space.

El Refugio have previously provided donkey care training to many of the owners and, as there has recently been a change of political party in the town, training will also be given to the relevant officials.

Mijas donkey


You all know about Moses and the truck, Hercules opening bolts, Helena and her fascination with bootlaces and Velcro – things you almost expect from younger donkeys. There’s an old saying ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and while this isn’t true, we certainly didn’t expect it of two of our very elderly donkeys!! Actually, we didn’t teach them – it was a team effort between Squeak and Bobby.

Both donkeys had been feeling rather poorly and for several weeks, their appetite wasn’t what it should be. To encourage them to eat, we let Squeak and Bobby out every morning for a few hours, to eat their food in peace. It also gave them a chance to have a nibble of the bits of rough grass and herbs around the feed barn and the portacabin where the carers have their tea break and a bin of pony nuts are kept. For a while, they were quite happy strolling around, but it didn’t take long for Bobby to realise that the portacabin had a feed bin in it as well as the occasional human and, most importantly, biscuits!

The carers quickly learnt that Bobby and Squeak could get the portacabin door open and walk in, so they put a padlock through the catch on the outside of the door. Admittedly, they didn’t do it up but this kept both donkeys out of the building – for a while! One morning the carers returned to find the portacabin looked like it had been burgled! The feed bin was open, pony nuts were all over the floor, cups and cutlery had been knocked off the worktop and chairs had been tipped over. The biscuits box, which was now on the floor, was completely empty. There hadn’t been a burglary – there’d been a Bobby and Squeak break in! Of course, Bobby and Squeak were nowhere to be seen until they were found happily eating some grass down the other end of the Holding Base!

Obviously, the portacabin is now locked properly, but when its tea break time, Bobby and Squeak know the humans are back. To try to persuade them to keep out, a large wheelie bin was put in the doorway but they soon realised it could easily be knocked over with their noses. Tying up the door with a rope on the inside didn’t work either, as Bobby would just keep playing with the edge of the door until the rope came loose.

It would be simpler, of course, to put the two old boys back in their field, but they look forward to their visits each morning and it is entertaining to be with them. Having worked hard all their lives before coming to us, at their ages, we think they deserve a bit of fun and it’s lovely to see them happy and enjoying themselves. It just shows that you’re never too old to learn new things, even if it causes mischief. We just have to keep a close eye on them and remember to use the padlock!

Bobby & Squeak 1


In our last newsletter, we spoke about the help we need from any of you who are concerned about a donkey you see. We’re sure you’ll understand how difficult it can be for us to resolve some situations, particularly as we have no legal jurisdiction. Fortunately, we’ve got to know many more owners over the years and developed a good relationship with most. This makes it a lot easier if we need to speak to them about a concern, or if we can then tell people that we know the donkeys involved and can explain the situation.

Frequently, by providing explanations about the general welfare of a donkey to concerned members of the public, helps people learn and understand more about donkey health.

Sometimes there may not be an issue with a donkey, but we’re always grateful for everyone who contacts us, regardless of whether there is definitely a problem or not. Sadly, we can’t always deal with every case but will always do our best whenever we can.

A huge help from you to us is to send photographs (and/or videos) and an exact location of where the donkey is. Although it can be upsetting to see any animal in an awful state, evidence can be crucial and so if you do come across a donkey you think may be in trouble, please help us by sending in the information we need.

Next year we’re hoping to be able to give some talks to other animal welfare organisations about donkey welfare. Not only can basic knowledge about a species enable people to have a better understanding, but it can also help us to have more ‘eyes and ears’ out there. We’re also working on information to put on our website and Facebook explaining how to make an official complaint to the authorities as this can emphasise the need for improvements to animal welfare.

It can be a long, slow process to getting improvements but with your help, it can make a difference. Thank you to those of you who have contacted us over the years and told friends and relatives who we are. By doing so, you’ve helped us help so many donkeys.

Help us make donkey lives better


Trying to improve donkey welfare standards can sometimes seem like a losing battle; it’s easy to forget that there are good people out there who really do take care of their donkeys. Through our Community Programme, we meet some wonderful owners who ask us questions and listen to our advice so that they can give their donkeys a better life. Two such people are Andreas and Panagiota.

Vasilis is a young man who enjoys working in the countryside and a few years ago got a donkey. On our first visit, the young mare was difficult to handle and we spent time showing Vasilis what he could do to get her used to being caught, touched and have her hooves picked up. We also explained the best foods to feed, the importance of providing shelter whenever possible and to give the donkey plenty of water. He’s naturally a quiet, calm person, which helped his donkey learn to trust him.

The mare is now a confident donkey who is a pleasure to handle and this year became an excellent mother. This photo shows Vasilis with the foal who is such a friendly little chap who loved being cuddled when we visited earlier this year. He’s already good to lead and pick his hooves up! Vasilis has really listened to our advice and done a fabulous job with both donkeys.

Another super owner is Panagiota who uses her donkey for work on her land each day. She relinquished her previous donkey to us as he had a problem with one of his hooves and was unable to work. Fortunately, we knew of someone selling a donkey that we thought would be ideal for Panagiota and Shibilli (not ours!) has been working for her for several years.

We knew Shibilli well from our Community Programme visits and thought he would be ideal for Panagiota. After giving her a full description, and assuring the person who was selling him that he would be going to an excellent home, we put the two ladies in touch. They agreed on a price and Shibilli moved to his new home.

He’s a lovely natured donkey, with a huge character, whose only ‘fault’ is that he can wriggle out of any head collar! We’d warned Panagiota about this and the previous owner had confirmed it but this didn’t put Panagiota off at all. Shibilli was exactly the right size and temperament, in very good condition and already trained to work. The perfect match!

For safety, she puts him in a stable at night so he doesn’t escape and go off wandering, although on the few occasions he has managed to break free, he never goes very far!. Panagiota has a great bond with Shibilli and when we arrive, he’s always immaculately groomed, in an easy area for us to work and is so well behaved. If she has any concerns, she always asks our advice and does what we suggest or recommend. What a lucky donkey?!



Hambos and Nakis are two unwanted, and slightly troublesome, donkeys that came to us earlier in the year.Their owner was having problems with both the stallions escaping near a very busy main road and obviously concerned both the safety of the donkeys and vehicle drivers.

Donkeys can be great escape artists at the best of times, but when stallions detect a mare in season, even several kilometres away, they can be very determined to get to her. This may have been one of the reasons the boys were continually escaping. As they’d got in the habit of getting out, there was a serious concern that, even if they were castrated, the habit would be very difficult to break..

The owner asked if we could take them and although both a little underweight when they arrived at the New Arrivals unit, they settled in well. Once they had received a full medical and had been cleared by our vet, the next thing to do was to castrate them. On the occasions we have to do this, we always avoid operating during the summer months due to the heat and number of flies and other insects that are around. As flies can easily cause new wounds to become infected, it’s not worth the risk but fortunately, the donkeys arrived at the right time as it was a suitable temperature and no flies were around.

Hambos’ operation went very smoothly but our vet discovered a problem with Nakis – the vet could only find one complete testicle! It doesn’t happen very often in equines when the second testicle either hasn’t descended or is not fully formed, but can cause problems with their behaviour. They can still behave like stallions and sometimes be quite aggressive with mares and other castrated males. Often referred to as a ‘rig’ a specific blood test was required to confirm if Nakis was still producing any testosterone and, sure enough, he was.

The dear boy then later had to have another operation to find the offending tissue, which although difficult locate, was eventually found by our vet. Nakis made a full successful recovery and after a while was able to go with Hambos to live with new friends.

Hambos is a lovely smoky grey colour and is a very confident donkey, whereas Nakis, who is brown, is a little more cautious and wary of things. Both donkeys have become very friendly and good to handle and, with our very high secure fencing, haven’t found a way to escape (yet?)!

Hambos and Nakis


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