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The rubbish dumps of Mali, West Africa.

A shocking new video has brought to life the horrific working conditions of donkeys in the rubbish dumps of Mali, West Africa.

In the capital, Bamako, donkeys toil in temperatures often higher than 40 degrees Celsius.

In homemade harnesses, with ropes rubbing mercilessly against open wounds, the working animals spend their days pulling heavy rubbish carts up precipitous slopes, with little rest.

Some of the donkeys which endure great hardship being put to work in the rubbish dumps of Mali
Some of the donkeys which endure great hardship being put to work in the rubbish dumps of Mali

And with sharp objects a constant threat underfoot, frequent cuts and infections from tetanus are agonising – and, if left untreated, often lethal.

UK based working animal charity SPANA (the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad) has set up regular visits to help the animals, including providing treatment and vaccinations for tetanus and other deadly diseases.

And thanks to the free veterinary care they provide on the Mali rubbish dumps, the life expectancy of the donkeys has risen by several years, with improved welfare for the animals.

The donkeys are worked day in, day-out
The donkeys are worked day-in, day-out
They have to carry great loads
They have to carry great loads

Dr Ben Sturgeon, director of veterinary services for SPANA, said: “We often see animals working in terribly difficult and dangerous environments, but the conditions here in Mali are truly shocking.

“The donkeys and their poverty-stricken owners sadly face a never-ending cycle of work, hauling backbreaking loads of rubbish in extreme heat.

“But SPANA is making a lifesaving difference to the animals here. In 2020, we treated more than 21,000 animals across Mali, including at the rubbish dumps of Bamako.”

The rubbish dumps are filled with broken glass
The rubbish dumps are filled with broken glass
Sharp objects are a constant threat underfoot
Sharp objects are a constant threat underfoot

Now, thanks to SPANA’s intervention, donkeys at the Bamako dumps finish work in the early afternoon, retiring to a purpose-built shelter that keeps them out of the intense sun.

The shelters provide food and water, and SPANA vets are on hand to treat any injuries while vaccinating against tetanus and other deadly diseases.

Old, worn saddle pads can be exchanged, and owners receive training and advice on how to care for their animals more humanely.

The animals are at risk from tetanus
The animals are at risk from tetanus
Vets are working to improve the conditions
Vets are working to improve the conditions

Across the globe, last year SPANA treated 283,552 sick and injured animals and provided more than 350,000 veterinary treatments in total.

But the charity relies on the public to fund its vital work.

SPANA is currently raising funds to help pay for vaccinations to save the lives of working animals at serious risk from tetanus and other deadly diseases.

The charity is working to raise funds
The charity is working to raise funds
The life expectancy of the animals is short
The life expectancy of the animals is short

Regular donations can also contribute towards essential items such as bandages, medicines, antiseptics and anti-inflammatories, as well as food and bedding for animals.

Ben Sturgeon, of SPANA, added: “As everyone in the UK gets a jab, spare a thought for working animals overseas, whose lives can be saved by a simple vaccination.

“Vaccines and basic medicines can help prevent tetanus and other diseases from becoming a life-threatening consequence of even the smallest cuts and scratches.

The donkeys' life expectancy has been improved by the vet
The donkeys’ life expectancy has been improved by the vet
The animals are much happier now
The animals are much happier now

“Prevention is far better than cure, so alongside our free vet care, another major focus of our work is education and training for owners to ensure they can look after their animals properly and treat them with respect and kindness.

“Our teams work tirelessly to improve the welfare of working animals around the world, but the need is enormous and we rely completely on the vital donations we receive from the public to continue our work and prevent animal suffering.”

For more information, and to support SPANA’s lifesaving work, visit www.spana.org/tetanus

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