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.