For ten days three Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine students from Murdoch University in Perth, Australia, parachuted into the Donkey Clinic & Education Centre (DCEC) in Mannar. They were ‘chafing at the bit’ to undertake their veterinary fieldwork placement. It was a two-way deal for Ada Shackleton, Lauren Caspersz and Jessica Stone who not only got valuable hands-on experience in all aspects of donkey treatment and welfare but gave as much as they received.
Both Dr. Vincent, our official vet, and Alhathir, DCEC’s manager, conducted multiple sessions combining theory with practice for the young women. For Shyama Fuad, Bridging Lanka director who was the master-mind behind this edu-tourism experience, it all came together brilliantly. For our staff it was a rewarding experience and for them the days spent with the students were unforgettable. Ditto for Lauren, Jessica and Ada. Once the Hendro Animal Rescue Centre is built 200 metres away, we expect a regular flow of vet students from around the globe!
We have been trying to introduce donkey ‘SLOW’ road signs into Mannar district for the past five years. The donkey road carnage, which has increased steadily, provided strong impetus for this move. During this time, we faced many hurdles including gaining Road Development Authority approval and support, dealing with changes to government and ministry, raising funds, fixing problems with signage sticker printing and finally deciding where the signs should be placed. We undertook a survey to identify the areas with higher donkey movement and created a map to indicate where the signs should be installed. Intrepid Donkey Assisted Therapy (DAT) Coordinator, Kumanan, like a terrier, overcame daily frustrations and blocks to finally deliver the outcome of multiple signs across the town, urging drivers to proceed with caution when they saw donkeys on the road.
Bridging Lanka designed and printed the road sign stickers, transported all materials, paid labour costs for erecting the signs and provided other equipment. The RDA contributed the sign posts and advice. Once installed we immediately started receiving positive messages on Facebook.
Second Time Around - Admission Number – 111
A kind hearted gentleman from Tharapuram village noticed a donkey limping in pain due to a nasty wound on its hind leg. He patiently caught and tied up the donkey before contacting our donkey rescue service. On closer examination we realised we had treated this donkey before - in July of this year, in fact.
Previously, due to a serious vehicle accident, this donkey had suffered with a broken leg. We took it in and after several months of treatment, released the healed donkey. Now he was back seeking more treatment! We felt that if we re-released this donkey, it was likely to be injured again. Once healed, we’ll decide whether to release him into the wilds or keep him permanently in our clinic compound.
The man who reported this incident was an inspiration and his caring gesture was more evidence that the negativity towards donkeys was changing. The suffering of donkeys was starting to move people’s hearts. This makes our work worthwhile and creates pride in us.
A Donkey Collapses - Admission Number – 112
It was hard to piece together the story. Locals on Ayan Theatre Road in Mannar Town rang the DCEC saying two donkeys had collided with each other in front of the cinema. When the rescue team got to the animal, it was unconscious. It was taken back to the clinic and given initial treatment. It became all too obvious that its internal injuries were substantial. The poor donkey succumbed to its inflictions that night and released from its suffering. Kathafi and Ainkaran buried the donkey the next day.
Their First Rescue - Admission Number – 113
The vet students from Australia got their first exposure to the ‘donkey rescue’ experience as part of their fieldwork experience. This provided an opportunity for them to personally see the condition of donkeys in Mannar district and how they could be helped. First up they encountered an injured donkey in Erukkalampiddy. The students became anxious about the rescue but overcame initial fear to help the rescue staff catch the poor fellow. The students were shocked by the severity of the injury on the donkey’s neck and the maggot-infested wounds.
They brought the animal to the donkey clinic, and with the guidance of our veterinary doctor, treated the donkey with pain killers, antibiotics and wound ointment. The donkey responded to their daily treatments and recovered quickly. Each day the wounds were also sprayed with a special insect repellent to keep the flies at bay.
Back on its Feet - Admission Number - 114
While on the donkey rescue assignment at Erukkalampiddy, another injured donkey was spotted near a coconut plantation. Nine people were recruited to catch the uncooperative animal. It was too fast and cunning and evaded capture! The chase ended when the donkey was cornered by a fence and Kathafi’s rope. The injuries were clearer now. Both front legs sported deep, bloody wounds and of course they were maggot infested. After transporting the animal back to the DCEC, our trustee vet, the vet students from Australia and our staff set about cleaning and treating the injuries. Although not totally healed the donkey is responding well to daily care and attention and more importantly, back on its feet.
A Slim Silver Lining - Admission Number - 115
This month there was an unusual amount of donkey injuries in the village of Erukkalampiddy. A concerned student found a donkey with horrible damage to its muzzle. The blood was oozing from its snout and its right eye was completely closed and also bloody. Immediately the rescue crew brought it to the clinic for more specialised medical treatment. It was soon discovered that its skull was cracked meaning that the donkey couldn’t be saved. We planned to euthanize the suffering animal but it died before we could respond. The only silver lining was that this was the first time a student had contacted us about a donkey emergency.
Pain in the Neck - Admission Number - 116
More gruesome neck injuries! This time our Donkey Welfare Officer, Kathafi, who went home to his village of Puthukkudiyiruppu for lunch, came upon a donkey with serious lacerations to its neck. He called for backup from the donkey rescue team who managed to capture the donkey and take it to the DCEC. A week’s worth of treatment provided quick results. In a week’s time we will be releasing the healed donkey.
It was that time of year to give all our donkeys a full check-up including the necessary boosters. Under Dr Vincent’s watchful gaze, the vet students supported by our staff vaccinated all 25 sponsored donkeys against tetanus at both the DAT and DCEC facilities. This was a future safeguard for the donkeys and valuable hands-on experience for the students. The next step was the full body scan – examining heart rate, pulse, respiration rate, capillary refill rate, mucous membrane colour, hydration status, lung and gut sound, height, body condition score and finally, behaviour. Dr Vincent supervised our veterinary students as they carried out these important tests.
Smile! Candid Camera
The national ITN Media Network paid a visit to the DCEC as part of a tourism broadcast to promote northern tourism. In spite of rainy weather, the video team threw themselves into filming our donkeys as part of their ‘Travel Girl’ series. Our Donkey Clinic & Education Centre has become a preeminent tourist drawcard in Mannar district. Imagine! Our donkeys are one of the most popular attractions of the North and worthy to be captured for national television. This film offering was broadcast on national television on 29th December. See the video for yourself - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Vo8L07bIns
It is the second time our donkeys have been featured on national television.
Written by Vijitha Johalinkam, Shahul Hameed Alhathir,
Kumanan Kowcik and Jeremy Liyanage.
The Donkey Clinic & Education Centre is operated by Bridging Lanka, a registered charity in Australia and a separately registered Volunteer Social Service Organisation in Sri Lanka. In Australia all donations above $2 are tax deductible.