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Safely at the GHDT

In July I visited The Gambia with a team from BBC Scotland and the Dean of Glasgow Veterinary School. Most of the suffering caused to the working animals in The Gambia is caused by ignorance rather then cruelty, but we were appalled to find two cases of cruelty at the very first market we took our guests to. The first was a little female donkey who had been so badly beaten that her rump resembled raw steak. Her shoulders had severe wounds caused by an ill fitting harness. She had obviously kept trying to stop because her shoulders were so painful from being badly beaten.

She was the picture of misery, very depressed and obviously in a great deal of pain. When we told the owner that she would have to be hospitalised for two weeks, he then let it be known that she had a very small foal.



I shall never forget her face when her little foal was returned to her, her spirits lifted immediately. The little donkey haunted us as we returned to the centre along the river and throughout the evening my thoughts kept returning to her and another donkey who had been brought in that day. The second donkey had also been beaten and was wounded, but she had been brought to the market clinic because her little foal was struggling to survive Strangles.

I desperately wanted to help those donkeys, but if we bought them, would we just be causing another problem for another donkey?

We had called the police in to witness the state of the donkey and the owner had received an official warning together with the promise of prosecution if anything like this was found on his animals again. I hadn't realised that Stella, my sister, was going through the same agonies. We decided the next day to purchase the two donkeys and their offspring, but it would have to be done by a dealer from outside the area on our behalf.

The first donkey was purchased and came home two days later. She was named Rhona after the BBC presenter, and her son was named Chas after the cameraman. The Strangles foal survived, but obviously could not join us with her mother until risk of spreading the infection had passed.

BBC team and Buba

They are all making an excellent recovery and are destined to become our demonstration donkeys. Stella and I both felt that we had it in our power to turn the lives of those little donkeys around, and though we both know that you cannot do that to every donkey you meet, sometimes, for the sake of our sanity, we have to help certain individuals.

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