This World Animal Day (4 October 2022), we’re highlighting the plight of animals, like Nadia the mule, who work in extreme conditions across the world.
High in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, in the village of Imlil, lives an indispensable workforce of mules. These animals have an essential role transporting goods, food and water to help their owners in this mountainous region, as well as guiding tourists across the area.
The climate and terrain can be very tough for the animals and people who live here. Hot, dry summers give way to long, cold winters, with three to four months of snow. Steep, narrow, rocky tracks zigzag across the mountains. These perilous paths are inaccessible to vehicles, so the sure-footed mules carry essential goods and make it possible for local people to earn a small income.
One of these mules is Nadia. The six-year-old mule treks four to five hours a day, accompanying tourists alongside her owner, Brahim. One day, Brahim noticed that Nadia was reluctant to walk and was slower than normal, despite having frequent breaks. Concerned for his mule, Brahim took Nadia to see SPANA vets the next time our monthly mobile veterinary clinic visited their hard-to-reach village.
At the clinic, our vet team gave Nadia a thorough examination and discovered that she needed new shoes. Ill-fitting shoes are a common cause of lameness for working animals. The mules of Imlil walk on extremely rocky terrain, and good well-fitting shoes are essential to protect their feet. Without good shoes, Nadia could have developed chronic foot conditions – leaving her in pain, in danger of stumbling and falling, or even unable to work.
Using specialist farriery tools, our farrier removed Nadia’s old, worn shoes, trimmed her feet and replaced her shoes with a brand new set. The vets also took the opportunity to give Nadia a general health check, including administering medication for parasites. They spent time with Brahim, explaining the benefits of regular check-ups and re-shoeing, and encouraged him to bring Nadia to the mobile clinic to keep her in good health – which is vital for her welfare. Our farriers, and local farriers trained by SPANA, advise the owners of these mules to have them re-shoed every 30 to 40 days.
Brahim was delighted by the treatment Nadia received. He said: ‘Thank you, SPANA. My mule is very important to me.’
From the mules of Imlil to the working camels in the brick kilns of northern India, many working animals in impoverished communities across the world endure exceptionally harsh conditions and poor welfare. Access to water, shelter and rest is often limited and food supply may be inadequate. Their equipment is frequently poorly fitted and there is poor access to essential veterinary care when they are sick or injured. But thanks to your kind support, we are able to ensure their welfare is protected by providing lifesaving veterinary treatment, training owners in animal care, and teaching the importance of animal welfare to children. Find out how your kindness and support is making a vital difference to the welfare of working animals here.