You are here

Another new arrival in need - Mbia

Meet Mbia, an elderly ex-trekking donkey who came to us a few months ago. No longer able to work, her owner wanted to make sure that Mbia had a caring and loving home to enjoy her retirement.

She's such a sweet natured donkey who clearly was very well treated in her life. Very curious and interested in what's going on, she likes to watch what everyone is doing and chat to the other donkeys in the next paddock.

Although a little underweight, our vet soon sorted out the dental problems and her condition improved very quickly.

We haven't been able to find out exactly why she has such a strange name, but with her kind temperament and elegant looks, she's very much like a darker version of our dear Lorraine.


Welcome to Santorini

Donkeys and mules in tourist hotspots are commonly used as taxis, carrying passengers or luggage. We’ve been working on the Greek island of Santorini since 2006 to improve welfare conditions for the 360 donkeys and mules working as tourist taxis.

We are regularly contacted by people who’ve visited the island on holiday but have left very unhappy with the health and conditions of these hard-working animals. Complaints centre on:

  • Donkeys and mules having no shade from direct sunlight;
  • No access to water
  • Carrying riders above the acceptable weight limit
  • Wounds caused by poor quality equipment.

This film shows what we’re doing to help, and how our work with the Santorini Animal Welfare Association and Animal Action gives these donkeys and mules comfort now and hope for a better future

Santorini donkeys

Helping donkeys and mules in Greece

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.

Helping donkeys and mules in Greece

Preparing for Outreach 2015

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.

Outreach 2015 preparation

Helena's first dental

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!

Helena's first dental

Shilionias enjoys his raincoat

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.

Shilionias enjoys his raincoat

Lonnie's update

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?


Our golden oldies

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...


Still going strong

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!

Outreach 2016


Subscribe to The Donkey Sanctuary RSS