Donkey Management & Welfare Update - March 2017
It's only a fence but what a great fence it is!!
Finally, work has started on the Donkey Clinic site at Thailankudiyiruppu. Under the expert instructions of Dr. Ramesh from Donkey Sanctuary India, local labourers have commenced erecting the extensive fence around the property. Alhathir has engaged locals to undertake the work, providing badly needed income for materially poor families in the surrounding areas.
The journey of the ‘The Donkey Clinic facility’ has been followed closely by Janet and her dedicated supporters from Animal Aid Abroad. Thank you for sticking by us through the highs and lows of this challenging project!
Donkey Management & Welfare Update - December 2016
.... AT LAST
Working in Sri Lanka teaches us the virtue of ‘patience’. After two gruelling years of frustration, bureaucratic lethargy, untold obstacles and crippling progress, we finally got building approval for the Donkey Clinic & Community Education Centre from the Urban Development Authority and Pradeshiya Sabha.
When we finally received official acknowledgement, a wave of disbelief washed over us. Could this really have happened after such prolonged difficulties? But it had. We have the evidence! Thanks Engineer, Vimal, and Architect, Sumangala, for final amendments to the drawings prior to approval!
The blow-out in time meant that we had to seek a funding extension from The Donkey Sanctuary UK for building construction – which Stephen Blakeway, Director of International Operations, approved until the end of March. We sincerely thank Stephen who has believed in us and been a source of great inspiration. We also thank Sally Price, International Programme Development Consultant, who has provided sound advice along the way and Harriet Pottinger, International Administration Officer, who ensures that the systems work for us.
Before the building has even been started, we have already put in place some sustainability measures. Our wonderful partners, Animal Aid Abroad (AAA) Australia, are already providing a monthly financial contribution toward the sustaining of the clinic operation. The funds will ensure the clinic has professional veterinary staff to run an effective operation so that Mannar’s donkeys receive the best of medical care.
In addition, the future manager, Alhathir, has started an agricultural farm which grows fruit and vegetables, with a percentage of the income to go toward the ongoing maintenance of the clinic and community education facility.
The pressure is on to design and develop a unique donkey cart suitable for Mannar’s heat and rough road conditions. A simple drawing and wire model became the focal point of discussions between our Mannar staff and a gifted designer and craftsman from Kalpitiya.
The donkey cart prototypes - two-seater and four-seater models – will be used for tourism purposes and also to be featured in a forthcoming video at the official opening of the Donkey Assisted Therapy facility.
The gifted designer is the partner of Helena from Kalpitiya, originally from the Czech Republic, who brought an injured donkey to Mannar for treatment in August last year. She is a sold-out animal lover who spent five days with us in Mannar. At the time she mentioned that her partner could possibly make a donkey cart and would check with him. He was keen!
We began to explore earnestly donkey cart designs from around the world. We were also on the lookout for carpenters from Mannar to build the vehicle when we unexpectantly received a text message from Helena saying, “I haven’t forgotten your cart!”.
We quickly arranged to go to Kalpitiya to meet Helena’s partner and discuss the project. Upon arriving, an attractive design had already been developed! We were overcome both by his enthusiasm as well as the attractive cart design – to be made out of bamboo!
We found another donkey near our office with a tin can wrapped around its leg, like a bracelet. Although it seemed like the donkey wasn’t in a lot of pain, the Bridging Lanka ‘fashion police’ thought it was better for the donkey’s image to have the accessory removed.
Staff members, Kelvin and Alhathir, enticed the donkey into the office compound, tackled the animal to the ground, held it down with much force and cut the can. After the op, the donkey lay still and calm, allowing us to stroke its fur. After five minutes it stumbled up and happily wandered off!
The Police rang informing us that a donkey had been struck by a vehicle. It was Saturday night and staff had returned to their distant villages for the weekend. A number of local vets were contacted but alas they were all out of town. We gave the suffering donkey food and water which it devoured. The poor animal’s legs were badly injured and it seemed as if there were serious internal injuries. Two days later a local vet administered the agony-releasing needle.
DAT building update
One of our Australian Bridging Lanka directors, Mr. Ponnuthurai Prabakaran, visited Mannar for two weeks to see our projects first hand. With him we visited the DAT site at Murunkan.
MARDAP officer, Mr. Chrishanthan, arranged for an electrician to come along so together we could plan the wiring works – where the lights, fans, switches, plug points and external lighting would go. We also discussed possible paint colours for the building. The day of completion was certainly getting closer!
WSDoM (Welfare Society for Donkeys of Mannar) committee meeting
We reconvened the monthly WSDoM committee meeting after a long time at the MARDAP centre. We discussed a number of our donkey activities but the main topic of discussion was the official launch of the DAT Centre.
The launch was scheduled for either March or April and dependent on the availability of the chief guests including the Minister of Wildlife or the Chief Minister of the Northern Province.
Sr. Josephine again promised that before March all the building work would be completed.
On that special day, Bridging Lanka will release a new donkey video promoting modern and positive sides of Mannar’s donkeys. Nishanthan Anthonipillai will be the camera man and director. It is planned to feature the new donkey cart in the video as well.
The site of the DAT Centre at Murunkan also houses one of MARDAP’s special schools. The children from this school will be the primary participants in the DAT program. Children from the Mannar based school will also come to the Centre for their own sessions with our talented donkeys.
This month we paid the Murunkan children a visit, distributed toys and shared some Christmas cheer with them. Our Director, Jeremy, made the kids happy by dancing with them. The children soon joined in. We’ll have to combine donkey and dancing therapies!
Sheila in pain
Nicholas is a committed, hardworking animal-lover and one of our staff. He works every day from 10:00am to 12 noon. His responsibilities include feeding our donkeys, grooming and taming them and keeping the area spotless.
One day he came on duty at our shelter to discover a disturbing sight. Someone had climbed over the high boundary wall and tied the hind legs of our Sheila donkey together with a rope. He was shocked and alarmed and raced to our office where he found Alhathir (future Manager of the Donkey Clinic and Community Education Centre).
Both instantly ran back to the shelter and removed the rope which had cut deeply into her flesh. Sheila’s suffering was obvious. It was a difficult operation to untie the rope because of the extent of the injury and not wanting to cause additional pain.
We applied medicine and tried to calm the distressed donkey. Sheila was heavily pregnant with two months to the delivery date. We believe that this dreadful incident contributed to Sheila’s foal being a premature and still birth. It was exactly 12 months previously that Sheila had given birth to Kelvin donkey!
Kelvin tried to contact Dr. Harshini our close friend and government vet. Sadly we discovered she had been transferred south to Rathnapura. He then called Dr. Ramesh Kumar from Donkey Sanctuary India for advice. Dr. Ramesh asked Kelvin to return to the vet office and find someone he could instruct over the phone on how to treat Sheila.
Kelvin met the replacement government vet, a new Sinhalese doctor, and had to start from scratch in explaining about our donkey programs. He kindly came to the shelter, examined Sheila and gave her an injection. Sheila quickly recovered.
We still don’t know who did this cruel act and what motivated them to do so. Our community awareness work is definitely not over yet!
Misfortune into money
Some time ago, Kelvin asked a local company to print a series of donkey postcards for sale to tourists. When he went to pick them up, the company had printed A4 sized colour prints not postcard sized! It was their mistake so they reprinted the job for us. Kelvin returned sometime later to see that the printers had framed the surplus A4 prints and were selling them for Rs 800! They were doing better sales than our postcards!
North-South connection via donkeys
Bridging Lanka runs a youth program, “Life Matter in Mannar” with Initiative of Change (IofC). The program aims to coach youngsters in leadership, moral and ethical behaviour, dealing with social issues like ‘love failure’ and also addictions. Most importantly it plugs reconciliation between Tamil, Muslim and Sinhalese communities.
IofC organisers brought six university students from Ruhuna and Peradeniya Universities for three days to undertake various community programs.
It was the first time the students were introduced to donkeys with the powerpoint presentation pricking their curiosity. However they were spell-bound when they encountered the real thing!
Donkey Management & Welfare Update - July 2016
Requesting land for a future donkey sanctuary
Dr. Ramesh Kumar from The Donkey Sanctuary India (DSI) spent one week with us and achieved many things during his sixth visit. We had several formal meetings with government agencies. We introduced Dr Ramesh to the ‘animal-loving’ Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP). After briefing him on the progress of the donkey projects, he said we should get land, about 10 acres, for a donkey sanctuary.
To our surprise the ASP rang the Minister for Sustainable Development & Wildlife immediately to get an appointment for. Unfortunately the Minister was about to fly out of the country so a meeting would be delayed until his return.
The ASP then contacted the Divisional Secretary (DS) about finding land and arranged for us to meet him. However, the DS said he could only allocate one or two acres for this purpose as land was scarce in the urban area. He said he would speak to the land officer and let us know the result.
Our next stop was to the office of the Government Agent (GA). He was supportive of a donkey sanctuary and said he didn’t have any issue in giving land for this purpose. He said the land would be first given to the Urban Council Mannar and Bridging Lanka would then work with the UC to establish the Donkey Sanctuary.
DAT building progress site visit with Dr. Ramesh
Dr. Ramesh visited the Donkey Assisted Therapy Centre construction site at Murunkan where Sr. Josephine, Director of MARDAP, gave an account of the progress. Dr. Ramesh thanked Sr. Josephine for sharing Nicholas (hers, and now our new employee) because he works hard and is an animal lover too.
During the site inspection, Dr. Ramesh made useful suggestions on how to improve the functioning of the centre when completed. These included removable donkey feeding trays, moving the door of the store room from the rear to the front and shade trees around the building starting immediately.
Thanking Donkey Sanctuary and Animal Aid Abroad
Sincere thanks to our generous supporters, The Donkey Sanctuary (UK and India) and Animal Aid Abroad.
Whenever we ask The Donkey Sanctuary for help, they open their hearts and willingly support us, not only financially but also with badly needed technical advice. We provided short notice to Mr. Stephen Blakeway and Mr. Vinod Khurana from The Donkey Sanctuary, asking to release for Dr. Ramesh to visit us. We needed assistance with negotiating formal agreements with government agencies and up-skilling of our staff, along with advice on the set-up and equipping of the three planned donkey facilities. Although facing a busy schedule in India, The Donkey Sanctuary approved Dr. Ramesh’s leave of absence!
We also cannot forget the long-term commitment and faithfulness of Australia-based, Animal Aid Abroad. AAA was our first financial supporter, dedicated to improving the health and welfare of donkeys.
Capacity building for Mannar veterinarians
We arranged a meeting between Dr. Harshini, Mannar Town’s vet, and Dr. Ramesh to identify areas for donkey welfare. Dr. Harshini floated the idea of Dr. Ramesh undertaking training for all the Mannar veterinarians. After a resounding ‘yes’ from Dr. Ramesh, Dr. Harshini immediately contacted the Assistant Director of Animal Production & Health to get the necessary permissions.
Ten veterinarians came for the workshop - Dr. Harshini, Dr. Iromy, Dr. Kirubakaran, Dr. Priyadarshini, Dr. Fathima, Dr. Vindya, Dr. Gajenthini, Dr. Sujivi, Dr. Deepike and Dr. Manoj. The sessions focused on welfare assessment, donkey behaviour and visual approach, handling and restraint of donkeys, clinical examination, hoof care and basic furriery, giving intra-muscular and intra-venous injections, micro-chipping, donkey medicine (common drugs, dosage and ways of administration) and finally, euthanasia procedures. The workshop was a huge success.
Dr. Harshini continues her strong commitment to our donkey welfare programs. Currently she is helping us to negotiate with Police Services to find suitable land for a future donkey sanctuary and also comes regularly to treat our donkeys, whenever needed.
Negotiations with Ms. Visakha Tillekeratne to bring members of the Colombo Girl Guides to Mannar to support our donkey program, were successful and a trip was finally arranged.
We wondered what tasks to assign the Girl Guide volunteers. I came up with the idea to fence off some of the area in the shelter for growing grass. Other Bridging Lanka staff suggested that they construct the fence and ask the Guides to paint it.
Concrete pillars and timber were bought and BL staff, Nicholas, Karnan and I, together with Australian volunteer, Graham Burgdorf, constructed the fence.
Colombo Senior Girl Guides visit Mannar
Included in the 2016 strategic plan of the Colombo Girl Guides Association was the adoption of Mannar’s donkeys. Miss Dimanthi Gurawardana, the National Secretary, bought a group of eight Girl Guides to Mannar on an exposure visit to better understand and participate in the existing donkey programs.
The first day of the program started with a presentation about Bridging Lanka’s activities by Jeremy, followed by one about Mannar’s donkeys given by me. We then shared what we had in mind for the Guides to do.
What followed was a visit to our donkey shelter where the girls touched, groomed and fed the donkeys. Initially fearful, the girls relaxed and became overjoyed by the experience. Then it was down to work. They started weeding the fenced area so that grass for the donkeys could be grown there. The day ended with a visit to the beach.
On day two, after an orientation trip around Mannar, the girls started painting the fence. In the afternoon, we had a meeting in Santhipuram (a village where Bridging Lanka is building a children’s park). There the Guides met many local young people and both groups shared stories, song and dance. The visit ended with a community working bee.
To round up the Guides’ visit to Mannar we all danced and sang around a camp fire. We were certain the Girl Guides left us enthused and with a much clearer understanding of the need for our donkey programs in Mannar.
Many thanks to Visakha, Dimanthi and all the senior Girl Guides who made this trip both possible and enjoyable. Let’s hope it’s just the first of many connections between young people in the north and those from the south of the country.
One of our projects was to erect donkey signage at major incident sites in the urban areas of Mannar Town. We wanted to prevent injury to donkeys and pedestrians and avoid vehicular accidents. The project is getting closer to being realized. The signs will bring increased awareness of the importance of animal protection and the need for greater caution on the roads.
To implement this project we needed approvals from three different government agencies - Urban Council Mannar, Road Development Department and the Road Development Authority. Fortunately they all replied to our letters, giving us the necessary permissions to erect this sign boards.
This signage was designed by Mr. Iwan Isnin, Bridging Lanka volunteer from Perth, Australia. Thank you, Iwan.
Hoof care – first time ever!
This was the first time in their lives that our donkeys received hoof care! Dr. Ramesh trained both Bridging Lanka staff and Mannar’s Livestock Development Officers (LDO) to do so. The donkeys didn’t like it at all! It became very difficult to control our donkeys.
In two days we did seven donkeys amongst ourselves while Dr Ramesh did seven by himself. He taught us the proper way to hold their legs and clean the hoofs. It was interesting but very painful because, for us too, it was the first time we’d undertaking hoof care.
The LDOs were grateful for the experience of handling donkeys for the first time and delivering a hoof care service. Dr. Ramesh even taught them how to administer inter-muscular injections. In the end the donkeys appreciated the work and trotted away happily.
Students parachute into DAT land
Again with the expert contribution of Dr. Ramesh we ran another Donkey Assisted Therapy session for the MARDAP ‘differently abled’ kids. Nineteen RMIT University students and their lecturer from Melbourne, Australia, were enchanted with this donkey experience. The children were so happy to be with RMIT students and also, as usual, with the donkeys.
For the RMIT students, the week-long fieldwork encounter in Mannar was part of their formal university studies in various disciplines – Environment and Society, International Development, Global Theory, Natural Resource Management, Economics and Urban Planning. Their input will help us in the future to develop our donkey programs.
These educational tours are also part of Bridging Lanka’s approach to develop a sustainability strategy for our programs, charging students a fee to access such educational experiences in a development context.
Donkeys embrace globalisation
A number of tourists from around the globe are now coming to Mannar and visiting our donkeys. Uniting Journeys Travel brought a group of Sri Lankan diaspora members residing in Australia on a Journey of Reconciliation. They were from Tamil, Muslim, Burgher and Sinhalese backgrounds. During a two week period, they shared aspects of their past lives in Sri Lanka in deep and significant ways.
The encounter with the donkeys further pulled on their heart-strings and was a delightful way to wind up their time in Mannar.
Donkey Management & Welfare Update - October 2016
With a child’s heart
The instant rapport and confidence of a four year old with a donkey was startling to behold. In Spike, the little man from Melbourne, Australia, there was no argument. He wanted an equal and robust relationship with this benign animal.
Immediately Spike started to touch, pull and handle the donkey without any fear. The donkey responded with warmth, patience, calm and total acceptance of this friend of 15 minutes.
A genuine and mutual connection was made and it clearly demonstrated the power and wonder of the donkey to forge deep bonds with humans of any age! It was the first time Spike had encountered a donkey and it definitely won’t be the last!
Hot off the press
Finally! Our second edition Funky Donkey t-shirt has hit the streets. Depicting a bold and edgy donkey with attitude, the more masculine design is to challenge all those who may think that the Mannar donkeys are weak and on the decline. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Mannar donkeys are here to stay!
The design was once more artfully created by Sameera Rajapaksa who runs an inspiring graphic design business in Colombo. With a vague description handed to him of what we wanted, Sameera came up with a stunning design!
Thanks too to Rohan De Costa and Maduranga of Maxim Garments who have made and printed the t-shirts gratis so that the entire proceeds of the sales can go towards sustaining our donkey programs. Maxim Garments – a business with heart!
Now over to you! How many t-shirts will you buy? For local Sri Lankans the price is Rs 800. For those from overseas, the cost is AU$30; £20; US$25; €20 + postage. You will be supporting an integrated cause – animal welfare coupled with village economic development in war-affected areas of Mannar District, northern Sri Lanka.
Donkey Clinic Update
So there is only one final hurdle remaining before we can start construction of the Donkey Clinic & Community Education Centre. It has taken two years to clear the many blocks. The last is so simple yet has frustrated us for six months.
All we need is a letter on Sri Lanka Railways letterhead stating that our proposed building site at Thailankudiyiruppu, Mannar Island, does not fall within the railway reservation. A survey report has already been done by SL Railways and a letter sent to head office informing them of this. Yet we are waiting.
Al Hathir, Bridging Lanka worker and property owner, and director, Jeremy visited SL Railways in Anuradhapura and scanned the letter and survey report to have a copy of the documentation. Fingers crossed. Here’s hoping that official letter arrives very soon!
Uniting people across the planet
Eight tourists from Australia embarked on another Uniting Journeys adventure to Mannar. Uniting Journeys is developing a comprehensive ‘responsible tourism’ schedule of destinations and Mannar is firmly on their circuit!
Although a little hesitant at first, the tourists were eventually charmed by our four legged friends. They particularly enjoyed the time with the MARDAP children in another DAT session. Although it was a holiday for the teachers and students, they all made a special effort to come to the shelter to show off their donkeys and their much loved DAT program.
What was most significant to the visitors was the children’s obvious ease with the donkeys and the euphoric stimulation their interactions with the animals seem to engender.
Later that day the visitors huddled together in two groups brainstorming a creative concept for a proposed video to sell the benefits of donkeys to the authorities. The makings of a dynamic script with a forward-looking and positive message was the result of a couple of hours of intense work.
The visitors all bought the new edition t-shirts and also agreed to be the ‘mules’ for the transportation of this new stock back to Australia for sale there.
Following up the Girl Guides
While in Colombo, Jeremy met with the Girl Guides who had visited Mannar. He also thanked Ms. Speldewinde, the Principal of Ladies College where the girls study, for allowing her students to participate in our donkey program. She pledged the school’s ongoing support.
At a lively meeting with the Girl Guides during their lunch break, they brainstormed how they could help publicize the recent spate of cruel incidents befalling our donkeys.
Reports were being received that donkeys from Mannar were being slaughtered and their flesh sold as cow meat by unscrupulous business people on the A9 Highway. Others were also transporting donkeys illegally from Mannar to other parts of Sri Lanka, selling them to owners of coconut estates. The real danger is that few people know about caring for donkeys. Their abuse will surely result.
The girls volunteered to write newspaper articles, investigate how the message could be conveyed via television and radio, create an awareness raising video and plan a protest strategy.
Some strategic planning
While in Colombo, Jeremy discussed a number of donkey-related issues with Pubudu, a director of both Bridging Lanka and also the Species Conservation Centre.
The conversation included safeguarding our donkey clinic venture from individuals who may wish to undermine our plans. Pubudu suggested creating a more substantial connection with the Department of Wildlife through making the clinic and education centre a joint initiative.
They also fixed a time for the next donkey census – late November.
Introduced by local, Elijah Hoole, Andrew Fernando, a cricket journo with Cricinfo, is currently travelling the road less travelled to capture the unsung wonders of Lanka. What better place to come and what better subject matter to focus on than the unique donkey colony of Mannar! Andrew is writing a special travel book and we were glad to help his project along. Hope Kelvin and Maria donkeys are featured!
DAT Centre at Murunkan
As soon as Jeremy arrived back in Mannar, the first thing he was interested in was the progress made on the DAT building. Finally his face showed signs of satisfaction in seeing one of his dreams starting to come true.
Much of the building was now complete. He also made suggestions about the security of both the building and the donkeys in the future, asking Chrishanthan, the MARDAP Officer in charge at Murunkan to better secure the building.
During the visit we had the chance of spending time with some of the kids from the MARDAP Murunkan School. They played very loud music and Jeremy joined the children in some energetic dancing.
Chrishanthan then took us to a welding workshop where we had to choose window frame designs. We are hopeful that the DAT Centre will be finished by the end of November.
Evelyn – Sponsored by Helen Gibbs
One and half years ago we let Evelyn come inside our shelter because she had a piece of tin wedged in her hoof which was causing obvious pain. We managed to remove the tin and very quickly her health returned once more.
In the beginning she was the dominant one among the donkeys, not allowing the others to eat. She was very selfish and difficult to handle.
Now Evelyn is one of our best behaved donkeys, very friendly with everyone and also one of the four donkeys chosen for the DAT program. Soon she will be heading to Murunkan to live permanently at the DAT Centre.
Musaeus – Sponsored by Visakha Tillekeratne
Musaeus is seven months old and was the first male to be born at our shelter. Being the ‘king’ of the compound, he got to choose when and where he mingled with us riff raff. If we choose to go toward him, he would wander away but when we sat still not bothering about him, he would choose to come close and get quite personal.
The donkeys Kelvin and Musaeus are firm friends and look out for each other.
They are often seen grooming each other and hanging out. Click Here to watch this video to see just how affectionate Musaeus can get with us!
A committed friend
It has been two years since Animal Aid Abroad first started financially supporting our donkey welfare work in Mannar. Religiously, every three months, a transfer would occur.
Janet nominated that the funds go toward sustaining the proposed Donkey Clinic. The clinic will need both technical, human and financial resources to continue providing a range of services – taming, feeding, wound care, inoculation, antibiotic treatment, microchipping, ferriering, deworming, and of course, grooming.
We are hoping for good news from the Urban Development Authority next month, that they will finally give us building approval for the clinic and community education centre. Once opened, AAA funds will go toward equipping the clinic and paying for veterinary care. Sincere thanks AAA!
Donkey Management & Welfare Update - May 2016
The donkeys love their new and improved site – the gate is open but this donkey doesn’t want to leave!
Hoof Reduction Therapy
Dr Ramesh from Donkey Sanctuary India first showed us how to trim hooves a couple of years ago. He said a donkey's hoofcare is vitally important as in a domestic situation, the rate of growth of the hoof often does not equal the rate of wear. The animals simply do not get enough movement on the right terrain to properly wear away the hoof.
For amateurs like us, this task seemed complex and difficult so we steered away from performing it. However, we noticed that Kelvin the foal was walking on its heel and not on its hooves. He was staggering like a drunken sailor. Finally we ‘bit the bullet’ and did something about his overgrown hooves!
Kelvin the program coordinator with the assistance of Josef the volunteer from Australia, held down the other Kelvin (donkey). As this was both Kelvins first time, the foal struggled and so did Kelvin. Dr Ramesh would have taken a few minutes but Kelvin took almost an hour to pair the hind hooves. The foal was much happier as a result and bounced off toward his mother, Sheila.
The red gravel road has been completed just in time for the next deluge!
Step by step ‘Donkey’ Home Improvements
- Before any improvements, the site flooded often and made conditions unbearable for the donkeys
- 10 tractor loads of rubble, remnants of demolished buildings, provided the foundation for a raised pathway to create dry spaces in times of flooding. Each load cost Rs 1,500
- The rubble was levelled by hand thanks to the hard labour of Roysdan and Kelvin
- Three tipper loads of clay soil was then delivered at Rs 6,500 a load
- Two tipper loads on red gravel were delivered at a cost of Rs 11,000 per load
- A bulldozer levelled the clay soil over the rubble. The dozer was provided free of charge from the Urban Council
- The curious donkeys wanted to tread the path before it was complete
- Finally the mini dozer completed the job by spreading the gravel on top, with the donkeys glad that the work was almost finished. Huge thanks to the Uniting Church’s Sammy Stamp Group in Melbourne who part funded these improvements.
Shelter for MADAP kids
We felt bad that the MARDAP children, on occasions, had to stay in the hot sun to join in the donkey assisted therapy program at this ‘feeder site’. A shade structure was badly needed. As this was a temporary site, we decided on a shelter which could be moved in the future. Kepin, Kelvin and a welder worked through the night to construct the frame. The total came to Rs 35,000.
DAT Centre Takes Shape
Finally all the block work is completed and now work has started on the roof. Sasi the roof builder is busily constructing the roof which will be brought to the site and installed. Vimal our engineer visited the site to monitor the progress and gave clear instructions for the roof to Sasi. Sister Josephine, Director of MARDAP promised that the building will be completed by the end of June. It was three years ago when Supun a draftsman from the military first designed the DAT Centre under instructions by Dr Ramesh from Donkey Sanctuary India.
Donkeys Get High on Grass
We will slowly wean the donkeys off the rice and curry diet from canteen leftovers from the Garment Factory as our donkey sponsorship program builds. Our improved diet for the donkeys now includes a nutritious grass which Al Hathir is growing for us on his farm.
When we first gave the grass to the donkeys they fought each other to get more grass for themselves. They loved it!
A Donkey Champion from an Unusual Quarter
The Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), Mr Sri Jayantha Peiris, has come out of the woodwork to be a passionate champion of our donkey cause. He even picked up the phone to the Minister of Wildlife to try to negotiate a five acre property on the mainland for a future donkey sanctuary. It is refreshing to finally get such valuable support from a highly ranked officer.
Visitors in May
This month a number of visitors graced our donkey shelter. A UNICEF officer touched a donkey for the first time and was so happy that she immediately wrote an email to all her staff saying, “Has anybody thought about touching a donkey? NO!, Never! Me too … until today.”
Kelvin’s friends from Colombo too visited and were swept away by how happy they felt. Our donkeys always make visitors happy and induce a loving feeling in them.
Also, Bridging Lanka volunteers often visit our donkey shelter and instantly become committed to the animals. This time Josef, Jerick and James worked with us to hand feed, groom and take care of the donkeys. Their love for these beasts was obvious.
The first touch is the sweetest!
A visit from the Environmental Police proved ominous. With suspicion in their voice, they demanded to know what we were doing with the donkeys. After we told them what our intentions were and also our vision for these wonderful animals, they settled down and instead started to praise and encourage us in our works. More friends won over to our donkey cause!
The green cops became new converts
Kelvin always gets ragged by his Arippu village friends about being a donkey lover. They finally visited the shelter. It was the first time they had touched a donkey because previously they believed they would be attacked and bitten. They were blown away by the experience and started to believe the vision for donkeys that Kelvin had been sharing with them for a while.
Donkey Clinic – still stuck but hopefully not for long
Three obstacles still haunt the start of this most crucial project:
- an influential power-broker who has poisoned the men of the village the proposed building will be built;
- approval needed from Sri Lankan Railways for an access path parallel to the new railway tracks;
- building approval from the Urban Development Authority.
A contingent of supporters fronted the Government Agent (GA) to press for his assistance again. Gathered were the ASP, Vicar General of the Mannar Catholic Diocese, MARDAP Director, local vet and Bridging Lanka staff.
Some far-reaching decisions were made. The Vicar General and ASP agreed to tackle the power-broker. The GA told us to ‘go ahead’ as he had recently approved all of Bridging Lanka’s projects for 2016. But we still had to wait for approval from Railways before the UDA would approve the building plans. Slowly we are getting there. We had originally submitted the building plans late last year!
Featuring … Hotham!
Hotham, Sue’s beloved donkey, is heavy with foal – again! It will be her second birth at the shelter. Usually donkeys deliver in the wet season to ensure there is plentiful food for the foal so we don’t know when the new birth will occur. Hotham continues to be a calming influence on the others and never attacks them. She has been earmarked as a future DAT donkey.
Hotham stands stately among her peers.