In rural communities across Botswana, donkeys are critically important for farmers who often travel huge distances to collect drinking water. As these communities are so remote, a donkey’s illness or injury can spell disaster for owner and animal alike.
Despite his failing eyesight, Samson still manages to look after his family and livestock on his small farm in rural Botswana. Twice a week, 81-year-old Samson harnesses up his three trusty donkeys – Kayla, Tale, Naledi – and travels for two hours to the nearest river. There, he fills as many containers as he can and loads them onto the back of his cart. He relies entirely on his donkeys to carry back enough water for his wife, eight children and livestock.
If not for his donkeys, Samson and his family would have to carry heavy containers of water along hot, dusty paths every day just to collect enough to survive. Samson worries especially for his wife and daughters, who would otherwise have to make this long journey alone, and is grateful for the valuable contribution his donkeys make to the family’s life.
As many of the farms in this community are several hours away by car from the nearest large town, SPANA runs regular mobile clinics in the region. Local donkey owners are given the phone number of SPANA Botswana Country Director Pippa Young, so when an animal is ill or injured they know exactly where to turn.
One afternoon, Pippa received a distressed call from Samson, asking her for urgent help with his donkey Tale. When Pippa arrived at the farm, she immediately saw that young Tale was limping badly. A large wound was visible along the animal’s leg, the result of a bite from one of Samson’s older donkeys. The wound was deep and, without quick treatment, could become badly infected.
Pippa cleaned and dressed the wound, protecting it against infection. She applied antiseptic cream to help relieve the animal’s discomfort and showed Samson and his wife how to keep the injury clean and dry. She also advised Samson on how to avoid injuries like this one in the future, keeping male donkeys away from each other and tethering them at night so they don’t wander too far away. She provided all of his donkeys with comfortable, new harnesses, as well as reflective collars to help prevent road traffic accidents.
Samson listened carefully to the advice and thanked Pippa for all of her help. He also knows how critically important his donkeys are to his livelihood and has always taken their care seriously:
‘SPANA has been assisting me very much with the check-ups and treatment. They keep my donkeys happy and healthy…I treat animals the same way I would take care of myself, because they help me to move from one place to another. I was raised with animals and I know how important it is.’
Thanks to Pippa’s treatment, Tale’s wound is healing well and he can now put weight back on his injured leg. In the meantime, Samson is resting Tale at home to ensure he is fully recovered before he returns to work.
Urgent treatment is often a lifeline for donkeys like Tale. But, without SPANA’s services, veterinary care would be unavailable or too expensive for most animal owners. Thankfully, the work of the SPANA team in this area of Botswana is helping to ensure that the future of local people is secure and animals can work without pain or suffering.