“Donkeys have long endured ridicule from people who have taken their quiet, kind nature for weakness. They make fun of their lovely voice and beautiful ears. They torment them, and work them to the bone, because the donkey doesn’t complain. The donkey wants to please, and finds even the smallest gesture of kindness a great gift.”
Taking Benny on public outings is a joyful experience. As this sweet young survivor of severe malnutrition, nuzzles a child or looks for approving rubs from adults, we are reminded of his beginnings two years ago. We are also reminded during these holy days that miracles are possible. Donkeys are often the among the most abused and misunderstood animals on earth. Little Benny was only three months old when TMR Rescue, Inc. rescued him along with the rest of his family who were all malnourished. The scene encountered on this emergency rescue was all too familiar to this large equine rescue located just outside Houston in Plantersville, TX. Marjorie Farabee, the equine manager at the ranch, learned of the starving family of five miniature donkeys in need of assistance, at 3 pm. By 5 pm they were on the road to make the two-hour trip to save them. A great deal of time had been lost because other organizations had been alerted for months that there was serious situation unfolding. Yet, not one of those organizations chose to follow up on the report. We were not notified until the actual day of the rescue.
Given the unforgiving weather headed our way, and the fragility of a three-month old baby, we knew there wasn’t much time since the temperatures were expected to drop into the teens that night. As soon as the five were loaded on the trailer, Marjorie headed straight to Texas A & M veterinary hospital. It was clear from the condition of the baby that they all needed to be seen immediately. Little baby we named Benny, weighed only thirty-nine pounds and had the gravest prognosis. They gave him a twenty percent chance of survival. Then, overnight, his bladder burst reducing his already slim chances to a mere ten percent. It took combining allopathic and homeopathic medicine, plus the will of one baby donkey to survive for Benny to recover. His mother, aunt, father and brother were also in need of care. Sadly, his aunt miscarried a foal in
the days following the rescue, and his brother spent a week getting stickers removed from his mouth. All were malnourished and needed care for about a week. Benny’s stay was much, much longer with his life hanging by a thread for weeks. Today, we joyfully celebrate his determination to live and love for people everywhere we go. He is an inspiration. His story can be found under special stories on our website at http://www.tmrrescue.com.
Donkeys have long endured ridicule from people who have taken their quiet, kind nature for weakness. They make fun of their lovely voice and beautiful ears. They torment them, and work them to the bone, because the donkey doesn’t complain. The donkey wants to please, and finds even the smallest gesture of kindness a great gift. Yet, there is no question that the donkey played an enormous role in helping humankind to reach great distances to settle in new lands. Their strong backs were used to carry goods hundreds, even thousands of miles thus, establishing trade routes and civilization. Humankind owes these remarkable animals respect not ridicule.
For those of us who have come to know and understand the intelligent, inquisitive donkey, have been rewarded with a new perspective on the world. It is a world where slowing down to be in the moment is everything. These times of complete connection are like meditation. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons that donkey trekking in Europe and pack burro racing in CO are so popular. http://www.awayfromthecrowds.com/holidays/donkey-trekking-holidays/donkey-family-trail-5-days What a wonderful way to see the world! Traveling with a donkey companion who has memorized the way to the next station and will carry your supplies while providing complete companionship is rejuvenating and for many life changing. For pack burro racing the competitors are the burros who must have their human still attached to the lead rope when (if they decide to) cross the finish line. It is a high energy, physically challenging sport that has the burro’s temperament racing day to factor in which makes for a really fun afternoon of fans cheering on their racers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgrBhjRdqTw Clearly, we owe the humble donkey so much more than the harsh treatment they receive around the world.
Donkeys are often the brunt of irrational hatred. We see it in the USA where our wild burros are constantly targeted for removal and blamed for damages they have not caused. An entire propaganda language has been born to assist agencies like the BLM and Forest Service to zero out wild burros in the United States. This targeted elimination program uses language like over-populated, destructive, feral and exotic to further their cause of removing burros from their designated range lands. The truth of the matter is that our wild burros qualify as endangered by IUCN standards. The truth is that burros are critical to habitat restoration in desertified areas. The desertification is due to poor livestock management and short sighted management decisions made by the BLM. Burros, dig wells which sets up a cascade of life in the desert. https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-unseen-ecology-of-the-wild-burro#/ Burros are also indigenous to the North American continent. https://awionline.org/content/wild-horses-native-north-american-wildlife The sad reality is that burros provide a scapegoat for the loss of western lands to overgrazing by livestock which outnumber burros 100 to one. And, as these powerful agencies close in our benign burros for removals, the actual activities decimating our western lands are increased and pushed through without oversight such as the peace trail through Black Mountain HMA which will unleash thousands of off road vehicles onto the fragile desert lands the burros call home. With all of the pressures facing these remarkable animals, the future for donkeys is becoming increasingly uncertain.
China is presently responsible for slaughtering four million donkeys a year for traditional medicinal products made from their skin. There are three components in all Chinese medicine and ejiao is one of them. https://tcmwiki.com/wiki/e-jiao Because of this, donkey skins (ejiao) are the new rhino horn, and just like the rhino, the Chinese demand is unsustainable. Already, countries in Africa are seeing their donkey populations drop at such an alarming rate that the poor who rely on them for survival cannot afford to buy one. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3930644/Decimation-donkeys-4MILLION-animals-slaughtered- year-make-Chinese-miracle-youth-serum.html Villagers are also having to keep the donkeys that are in their possession closely watched to protect them from poachers who roam the countryside looking for donkeys which they slaughter and skin. So, in an act of desperation, villagers have built areas where they can be guarded from poachers inside the perimeters of their villages. South America is also seeing a spike in donkeys being stolen and found slaughtered. The Chinese are sending agents all over the world in search of donkeys to meet their demand. It is clear that this demand will place the world’s population of donkeys in the critically endangered category within a decade if efforts are not made internationally to curb the export of donkeys to China.
The Chinese appetite for donkey skins has risen to such a degree that a worldwide crisis is unfolding for donkey populations around the world. To get a perspective on how unsustainable the demand is in China a look at numbers will help bring this into perspective. In the United States the population of donkeys is estimated to be between 250,000 and 400,000. Our wild burro population ranges between 4,000 to 10,000 total on all BLM public lands. They are already in trouble. The Chinese demand is for ten million donkeys a year. Currently, they are able to provide four million donkeys a year. Clearly, at this rate, our population of donkeys in the United States would be wiped out in a few months. We cannot allow this to happen in the States. Yet, weekly, there has been a clear increase of our donkeys being exported to Mexico for slaughter. The alarm bells should be ringing.
Worldwide the population of donkeys is estimated to be forty million donkeys. With Chinese demand as high as it is, a future with donkeys in it is not looking good. We need to make a stand to protect these wonderful animals before their population is in true crisis. In a future plagued by climate change, donkeys may be the salvation of pastoralists living under harsh conditions. Their footprint is light; their energy needs are meager. Because of their gentle nature, donkeys are the preferred working animal of women who live in the harshest conditions and who need them the most to survive.
At this time of year, it brings to mind the role donkeys played in history. In particular, I am thinking of one donkey chosen by a family to help them travel to Bethlehem. With each sweet step this humble, donkey carried Mary with great care to a stable. This donkey witnessed the birth of Jesus.