Helping working animals in Botswana

For many people in rural Botswana, working animals such as donkeys, horses and cows are integral to their survival. In the northern town of Maun alone, there are more than 24,000 donkeys, which – due to their abundance – tend to be considered ‘low status’ animals. Donkeys, mules and horses are used for transportation, while more than 50 per cent of households in rural areas depend on cattle as their largest source of income.

Botswana at a glance

  • Population: 2.4 million 
  • Area: 581,730 square km 
  • Location: Southern Africa 
  • Capital city: Gaborone 
  • Estimated number of working animals: 165,947 
  • Number of SPANA mobile veterinary clinics: One 
  • Number of working animals treated in 2021: 447 
  • Number of animal owners trained in 2021: 130  

Our work in Botswana

Our team is based in Greater Maun, in the north of the country. Greater Maun is a vast area, where thousands of donkeys are used for arduous work like ploughing and pulling heavy carts.  

Sadly, there is a widespread lack of concern for the welfare of these animals. There are few local vets in the region and there is often a lack of necessary expertise about equines. Our team runs a mobile veterinary clinic three times a week, clocking up hundreds of kilometres to bring relief to donkeys in remote rural villages. 

As well as our mobile clinic, our team in Botswana provides one-to-one informal training and advice in animal care to owners. In addition, our animal welfare education programme reaches children in Greater Maun, providing lessons and activities in caring for and respecting animals.  

We also run community education programmes to raise awareness of the devastating global trade in donkey skins and the long-term economic impact of selling working animals. In 2018, we provided feed and care to help hundreds of donkeys who had been kept in terrible conditions at a local abattoir serving the trade. Following this, SPANA was invited to work with the government on updating national animal welfare legislation. In 2019, we organised a major conference in Botswana to highlight the terrible impact of the trade. Attended by government officials, village chiefs, industry leaders and media, the conference led to widespread agreement that urgent action is needed, and positive steps were taken towards fighting the trade. 

Q&A with Pippa Young, SPANA Botswana Country Director

How important are working animals to daily life in Botswana?  

Donkeys are the most important asset to rural people, but they are extremely undervalued. They provide all of the draught power for daily firewood and water collection. They pull carts to provide much-needed supplies. They are used for ploughing in the rainy season, so that their owners can grow staple crops. Horses, meanwhile, play a crucial role mustering cattle.  

What are the biggest challenges working animals face in Botswana?  

Through no fault of their own, many owners are unable to afford or obtain the correct equipment for their animals, so we are still seeing wounds caused by improper harnessing. Some owners also use traditional methods to control their animals. Throughout 2022, we’re running community training initiatives to promote humane care. 

What do you like most about your job? 

That it is so varied! There is never a typical day because it’s constantly changing depending on the phone calls and requests to help working animals we receive. You need to think on your feet! But when my day’s work is over, it is great to know that I have been able to make a difference to the lives of working animals.  

What would your message to SPANA supporters be?  

On behalf of the working animals and their owners in Botswana, and the SPANA Botswana team, thank you for your never-failing support over the years. Working animals are often overlooked, but for centuries people have depended on them for their survival. For the price of a coffee in Europe, you are helping to provide vital treatment to a working animal in need, and the families and communities who rely on them so much. Thank you for your support.  

Contact SPANA Botswana Team

Contact Details

Opening hours:
Monday to Friday: 08:00 to 17:00

Phone:
+267 7333 2623/+267 7505 2770

Email:
info@spana.org.bw

Address:
Exit 9/10, Mma Palmers Property, Disaneng, Maun

PO Box:
HA32 HAK, Maun, Botswana

Emergency contacts & procedure

Treatment of horses and donkeys
SPANA: 7333 2623/7505 2770

Treatment of cattle, goats and sheep
Department of Veterinary Services (Maun): 6860237

Treatment of dogs and cats
Maun Animal Welfare Society: 7649 9440 / 7165 7443

Maun Police Department
6860224

When reporting an animal, please make note of the following:

  • Brand letters, location on body and formation e.g. in a square from left to right
  • Sex of animal
  • Age: eg adult/youngster/baby.

 

Important

All emergencies of injured animals must be reported by phone to the government vets and the police department. It is a difficult process to organise the treatment of an injured cow, horse, donkey, or goat if the owners cannot be located, so please be patient. You can speed up this process by notifying the Government Vet Department and Police Department.

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