An international conference focused on the humble donkey is taking place in November, and promises entertainment as well as a wealth of information on donkey care and health.
The Donkey Welfare Symposium, in conjunction with charities SPANA and The Donkey Sanctuary, and the University of California, Davis’s animal science department and its international animal welfare department, takes place at Davis from November 3 to 5.
In order to encourage more veterinarians to expand their knowledge about donkeys, the symposium will be free to vet students.
Many topics will be covered, including nutrition and physiology, wild burro ecology, and the international welfare problems relating to donkeys as raw materials for chemicals and meat. Hoof care, harness, diet and genetics are also to be explored.
One of the important donkey health problems that will be discussed this year will be an emerging parasitic disease called ‘Besnoitiasis’. The infection is caused by a tiny, single celled organism of the genus, Besnoitia, which has been recognized since 1920 as an important disease of cattle in subtropical Asia and Africa. More recently, disease caused by the specific parasite, Besnoitia bennetti, has been described in donkeys in Europe and 12 US states, mainly in the north east. The symptoms include hair loss and skin lesions, as well as effects on mucus membranes of the nose, the pharynx, and the eyes. Some affected donkeys suffer from severe weight loss and debilitation, others just cough and have hair loss. The way in which this disease is transmitted is unknown, but one of the leading researchers in the field, Sally Ness DVM PhD of Cornell University, will be discussing her findings and the progress of investigations that her group has undertaken.
Dr Lisa Tadros and Dr Karen Rickards will speak on rehabilitating the obese donkey. Rickards, who is chief veterinarian at The Donkey Sanctuary, is in charge of the well-being of more than 3000 donkeys and mules. Besides a practical discussion of feed and exercise, Tadros will present the complex relationship between genetics, metabolism, nutrition, and laminitis.
Dr João Rodriguez, the world’s only PhD donkey dentist, will explain how to safely and accurately examine the functioning of their donkey’s teeth and jaw. This is particularly important in older donkeys, but all owners should be comfortable with looking in their donkey’s mouths. Rodriguez will demonstrate how to examine their donkey’s teeth without sedation, assess their ability to chew, and decide on a proper bit, in his gentle, direct, and well explained approach.
Former wild BLM burros who have been trained by Davis students will also be available for adoption at throughout the symposium.
There are about 26 million donkeys in the top five donkey countries alone:
- China -11 million
- Pakistan – 5 million
- Ethiopia – 5 million
- Egypt – 3.2 million
- Mexico – 2 million
China’s large numbers are because of the multi billion dollar donkey hide/meat industry.
“The desire for ‘traditional’ remedies that utilize rendered donkey hide is sucking animals into the trade from Africa, Brazil, and the Middle East, too,” said organisers of the Donkey Welfare Symposium.
“Speakers with experience investigating the world donkey hide trade, will outline the horrors of this rapidly growing ‘use’ for donkeys. We cannot, in good conscience turn our backs, as saddening as it may be.”