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The Donkey Sanctuary UK now works in 27 countries worldwide with a continuing aim to reach more donkeys and mules each year. One way of helping to achieve this aim is by forming collaborations with like-minded welfare organisations that are already operating in other parts of the world. One of these organisations is the Greek Animal Welfare/Animal Action charity (GAWF). For several years The Donkey Sanctuary has supported the GAWF’s vital Equine Project. Every year the GAWF team of vets and farriers visit many of the Greek islands and several areas of mainland Greece, treating and checking donkeys, mules and horses.
As well as providing free treatments, hoof care and dental checks, GAWF actively train vets and farriers in the specialist areas of donkey and mule care. By doing so this enhances knowledge and skill levels, thereby helping to improve the welfare of these animals in many of the areas they visit. Advice and support is also given to the owners at every opportunity.
With an ever increasing volume of work, GAWF began their outreach work early this year in January visiting Poligiros in the North East of Greece. Despite encountering some very cold weather, the team spent two days dealing with some very severe dental problems in both mules and donkeys and some serious hoof problems. Although the number of working equines in the area is very slowly decreasing due to mechanisation, the team treated a total of 64 animals, mainly donkeys and mules.
The Donkey Sanctuary (Cyprus) is in frequent contact with GAWF who often help us with welfare complaints in Greece, and so a huge thank you goes the team for their hard work.
As most of you know our annual Outreach Programme takes place in May, June, September and October, waiting for the weather to settle and avoiding the hottest months. Records of each donkey treated are kept and as we are visiting more donkeys every year, our files are getting more and more full.
We are anticipating that we will treat at least the same number of donkeys this year as we did in 2014 – an incredible 180 animals. Organising starts early in the year when we prepare the new report sheets, add photographs and update all our donkey and owner information.
Last year was not only our most successful to date regarding the number of donkeys but also the incredible contributions made by our supporters. The amount of Sudacrem, gauze swabs and cotton wool we received was enough for us to use for all of our visits on the Outreach Programme as well as helping more donkeys on the island.
Your generosity was amazing, and we are hoping that you would like to kindly help us again this year. By sending any of these items to our office address, it is a practical way of helping with our vital work and will be very much appreciated. Thank you.
Helena was born at one of the Holding Bases on 12th October 2013 and is growing into a beautiful young lady. She has been well handled since the day she was born and is very good when having her hooves trimmed, when standing on the weighing scales and whilst having her vaccinations.
Now that she has a full set of baby teeth, and at the end of the year will begin to get her adult teeth, our vet needed to have a look inside her mouth to make sure there were no problems. We also wanted her to get used to having the dentist look inside her mouth.
Although the equipment can look quite scary, using it is the only way that the teeth at the very back of the jaw can be checked accurately and safely. After all, those teeth go back almost in line with her eye and donkeys have extremely strong jaws.
Our little girl took it all in her stride standing quietly while the vet put the gag on, and didn’t bat an eyelid when he opened it so he could put his hand inside. Not only were her teeth in excellent condition, but we’re so proud of her being much braver having her teeth checked than any of us! From now on she will be getting her teeth checked at least once a year like all of her friends. Bravo Helena!
We often notice that just like us, most donkeys will get out of the rain, however, there are a few that seem to enjoy being out in it. Our dear Shillinionas, who is almost 30 years old and blind, is one of the latter.
Shilli, as he is known, lives in at night in a specially adapted stable, but during the day likes to wander around the paddock and has the occasional snooze while standing up. Unfortunately, he also likes to doze off outside when it’s raining. Normally we would get him in before he got very wet but we felt that it was unfair to keep him in so much and so this winter he got a lovely new waterproof rug.
We did wonder how he would react to wearing the rug having never worn one in his life but he stood perfectly still while we put it on and adjusted the straps. He obviously appreciated his ‘raincoat’ as he pricked his ears before wandering off to show his friends. Shilli also loves rolling and getting as dirty as possible so the rug has also helped us keep him a little bit cleaner.
Shilli was very sensible when the winter was very bad though and did wander into the barn - cleverensible boy.
Hard to believe but Lonnie is getting very close to thirty years of age! Although there's been no sign of him giving up the face pulling and nudging feed sacks, he has begun to show his age over the last year.
No major health problems we're pleased to say, but just those annoying niggles that can happen to any of us as we get older. As you know, the minute we have any concerns about any of our donkeys' wellbeing, no matter how small, we immediately call our vet to come and check everything.
After a thorough donkey MOT and discussion, we all feel that the time is coming for Lonnie to retire from the Adoption Scheme at the end of the year.
We know many of you will be sad to hear this but he hasn't retired quite yet! Also, just wait and see who will replace him; a real little character who keeps us entertained! Can you guess who it might be?
We're often asked how long donkeys live for and we've certainly got a lot of elderly donkeys with us! As you're probably aware, the majority of donkeys that come to us are quite old and have usually worked all of their lives. Consequently few of them arrive with 100% health but we provide the very best care for them in the autumn of their lives.
Over two thirds of our donkeys are more than 20 years old and 50% are over 25. Our oldest male is Byron (in the first picture) who is 39 years old and here is our oldest female Layla, (seen here) who is 37.
When you consider that one donkey year is around three human years that makes them both over 100 years old if they were human! We're not sure if either of them will get to the incredible age of dear Maramenos who was an amazing 54 when he sadly left us...
Outreach visits started in May to provide farrier, dental and general care and advice to donkey owners on the island. Sadly, the numbers of true working village donkeys are declining but there are still several very elderly owners and donkeys working out on the land every day.
The saddle pads and equipment used on the donkeys is often between 50 and 100 years old and it’s extremely rare for the wooden frames on top of the pad to cause any sores or pressure points.
The materials used for the pads are tough but breathable which helps the donkeys in the heat by absorbing any sweat and with thick wool padding, protect the donkeys back.
The owners of these donkeys are incredibly fit having done hard physical work all of their lives and often still ride their donkeys to work and to the nearest village. Mind you, with advancing years and a touch of arthritis, it can be interesting to watch some of the old ladies getting back on their donkeys!
This photo shows 85 year old Panagiota successfully back on her 27 year old donkey Aristodelos. We almost couldn’t watch as she scrambled up on the pile of stones before launching herself – very accurately – onto the pad and frame. What was even more worrying was that she used the long rope from Aristodelos head collar as a sort of seat belt to tie herself on!
Well there might not be much Health and Safety here on Cyprus but these dear old folks, and their elderly donkeys, are still going strong!
In our winter newsletter we mentioned Fytos who arrived with quite a lot of health problems. A 30 year old stallion, he was extremely underweight due to severe dental problems, had a respiratory problem and large infected wound on his hindquarters caused by Magpies. The poor old boy was in a very sorry state but we soon learned he had a tough, determined nature. After sorting out the problems with his teeth, tending to his wound and slowly increasing his food, he had a new lease of energy.
Being a stallion he had to live separately from the other donkeys and we made him a nice big paddock using electric fencing. Well it didn't take him long to work out how to escape by pushing the plastic fence posts!
Eventually we had room to put him in a more secure area and although he made very good progress with his health and weight, we were concerned about castrating him due to his age.
It took quite a few months to get his weight up and then came the day for the operation. Well that determined nature paid off as the operation went very well and he recovered quickly. He's now in our Oldies group causing havoc and enjoying life to the full.
With almost 100 donkeys to take care for and many others that we help in Cyprus through our Welfare and Outreach work, we're always extremely grateful for any help of a practical nature. During the spring some of our wonderful supporters have certainly done that.
We've received some fantastic fly fringes, that don't need a head collar to keep them on, and are very comfortable for the donkeys that need them such as Beau.
Grooming brushes, head collars, cotton wool, gauze swabs to name but a few, all have been gratefully received and will certainly be used. One kind supporter from the UK gave us some vital veterinary bandages and we've even had some dustbins which are used when cleaning the paddocks.
Our recently installed online shop is already proving to be a success; not only can you buy small affordable gifts but you can adopt, renew an adoption and donate, all with a few clicks of your mouse.