Botswana at a glance
• Population: Approximately 2 million
• Area: 581,730 Km
• Location: Southern Africa, bordering Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa
• Capital City: Gaborone
• Estimated Working Animal Population: Approximately 350,000 donkeys
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 their welfare.
The few local vets in the region are also unaffordable and often lack the necessary equine expertise the animals need.
Our team have recently established a temporary office and are running a mobile veterinary clinic three times a week, clocking up hundreds of kilometres to bring relief to donkeys in remote rural villages. So far we have treated almost 300 animals in the region.
With a population of a little over two million people, Botswana is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. Almost three quarters of the country is covered by the arid Kalahari Desert and droughts are a common problem in the country. The population is made up of a variety of ethnic groups, the largest of which is the Tswana.
For Botswanan farmers, 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 over 50% of households depend on cattle as their largest source of rural income.
Meet the Vet
Pippa Young is our Country Director in Botswana. She has been working on animal welfare projects for the past 20 years and joined SPANA in 2015 to launch our first centre in Botswana.
What is it like working for SPANA in Botswana?
No two days are the same. We go out for four to five days to visit cattle posts and villages to treat sick and injured donkeys and horses. Our work can range from replacing bits and hobbles made of wire to treating wounds made by leopard or crocodile attacks. Working in this country is incredible. Botswana is one of the last Eden’s in the world, I love its space and freedom!
What is the best part of your job?
I love the daily challenges and variety that comes with working with animals, which I have now done professionally for over 20 years. It always keeps you on your toes, sometimes quite literally!
What are the biggest challenges facing working animals in Botswana?
The biggest problems for working animals in Botswana are poor treatment due to lack of education and the lack of equipment. The average person in the region where we work lives on less than one dollar a day, and there are often six people living in a single mud hut without water or electricity. People just don’t have the resources to look after all of their animals.
How important are working animals in Botswana?
Working animals are incredibly important to life in Botswana. Donkeys especially are very resilient and are used for transport and for carrying water in rural areas. Farmers also rely on horses for herding their cattle and consider them very valuable.
What has been your most memorable experience whilst working for SPANA?
The most memorable case for me was when I helped Little Ray of Sunshine or “Ray” for short. Ray was attacked by a leopard and had huge bite and claw wounds all over his body which had become infected. He’s happily back on his feet now and even lets us groom and pet him.
What are your main goals for helping working animals in Botswana for the next year?
I want to make as many people as possible aware of SPANA’s work in Botswana. It’s important that they understand that we’re here to help.