When Brooke partner AHTCS (Animal Health Training and Consultancy Service) set off on a survey of welfare standards at the brick kilns in Kathmandu valley, Nepal, they did not expect to find a group animals struggling for survival, enclosed and alone in an abandoned kiln. On the 12th of October the AHTCS team found 39 horses, donkeys and mules in dreadful conditions. All animals were in a desperate state, the mangers were empty, there was no trace of water, and fresh faeces showed signs that parasites were raging through their debilitated bodies. The extent of neglect was such that 4 of these animals still alive were simply unable to stand on their own – 17 of them had already died days, or even weeks before. The team leapt into action and promptly started medical treatment and care for the weak and debilitated animals. Usually at the end of the season these brick kiln mules would returned to their original home, transported via road. The cost of transportation is high, costing around 2000 NPR (£14) per animal. In this case, once the working season was over the owner of these poor mules left them with a carer who did not have the means or incentive to care for them as the animals don’t belong to him – and he has his own family to feed. Of the 39 animals that were found, 17 were discovered dead at the scene. The remaining 22 animals were hurriedly attended to by the team of vets. The team traced the owner to find a reason and understand what had lead to this awful case of neglect. He told the team remorsefully that he was in a financial crisis and because of that he reluctantly was unable to take his equines with him or even provide enough funds to feed them. These donkeys, horses and mules are now in the care of AHTCS and the Brooke and are being provided with emergency vet treatment, food, and clean water. This will continue until the brick kiln season starts again and the owner can once again earn enough money to care for his animals. Sadly this is a common fate for many Brick Kiln animals, it is no life for any living thing doing backbreaking work in extreme temperatures. However it is a reality that must be dealt with, and moving forward, we are looking to put in place some extra monitoring and training to ensure that and incident like this does not reoccur. We will update on the progress of these animals in a few weeks, as they start to recover.
Construction plays a vital role in social and economic development. Without buildings and infrastructure, communities and economies cannot flourish. Just think, where would we be without homes, schools and roads?
In many developing countries, the construction industry relies on the daily labour of horses, mules and donkeys that can suffer from overloading, injury, illness and overwork. The Brooke works with the animals and their owners to redress these problems and strives to protect them from the worst excesses of overwork.
In Hosanna in Ethiopia stone is a crucial part of a fast-growing construction boom with apartments, government buildings and shops springing up all over town. Most building material comes from a stone reservoir in Ajjo village around five kilometres away. Up to 40 donkeys are involved in the fetching and carrying, each helping their owner to earn 20-60 Birr a day (75p to £2.25). Between them, these donkeys support around 160 people. Carrying sharp and heavy loads can cause a number of injuries, which would traditionally be left to heal by themselves – and could easily prove fatal. However, since the Brooke has been working in Ethiopia, we have seen a dramatic improvement in the welfare of stone-carrying donkeys.
Aklilu Menberu’s story
For the past eight years, Aklilu has made his living by collecting, shaping and selling stones.
‘We used to load 6 to 7 times a day, with donkeys travelling 3 to 5 kilometres for each round carrying 50 to 60 kilos… There was no tradition of feeding them in-between – and nobody cared for their watering. Wounded donkeys were all around… their work lifespan was not more than one to two years.’
All this has changed now – thanks to the Brooke: ‘We have learned to treat wounds through water, salt and Vaseline available locally. We also use a saddler to prevent wounds and as a result you rarely see wounded donkeys. Now, we even know the symptoms before they get sick, and we treat them well and give them the rest they need.’
How your support is making a difference The Brooke is making a difference, by giving life-saving care and treatment to stone carrying donkeys and by enabling communities to develop the understanding and skills to provide it themselves.
For example, in Ethiopia, we have trained communities in wound management and stressed the benefits of low-cost animal welfare principles. And in the Haldwani region of India (another area dependent on stone), we have held educational sessions on the risks of overloading.
Thanks to everyone who ensure that horses have a life they deserve.