Survivors of the Turmoil


Santa Bahadur, caretaker at Animal Nepal’s Donkey Sanctuary pampering Maneka, one of the surviving donkeys.

“We wanted to run outside but could barely stand. My wife and I somehow managed to escape. Outside, the sick donkey’s isolation room collapsed in front of our eyes, followed by the tall chimney of BBM Brick Factory.” Santa Bahadur, who is in his late 60s, works as caretaker at Animal Nepal’s donkey sanctuary. Like all of us, he was deeply shaken by the earthquake that hit the country on April 25. He shares his experience with communication officer Chadani Lama.  “I never saw such turmoil in my life”, he recounts. Click here to learn more of Santa Bahadur’s experience and update of our Donkey Sanctuary. Wanna learn more? Then watch this video of the heartrendering accounts of paravets Tara and Hari Krishna.

Donkey Sanctuary UK team goes local!

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19 March, 2015– Animal Nepal this month was honoured to receive a visit from a high level team from The Donkey Sanctuary UK. The purpose of the visit was to observe Animal Nepal’s Working Equine Outreach Programme and discuss further collaboration. The DSUK team consisted of Stephen Blakeway, Julia Smith and Dr. Ramesh Kumar. More

Kudos to Animal Aid Abroad Australia tour group!

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At the start of the year the Animal Nepal team was pampered with the visit of  a team of volunteers from Animal Aid Abroad Australia (AAA). The eleven enthusiastic AAA members came with the purpose of getting to know Animal Nepal better and donating lots of useful medicines and special equipment, including a microscope. More

Nine newcomers at Animal Nepal’s donkey sanctuary

Godavari, July 9, 2012 – Rani (Nepali for ‘Queen’) is a 15 years old, malnourished donkey who was abandoned in a brick factory when she became too thin and weak to work.  Rani is one of the nine newcomers who now receive ‘royal treatment’ at the Godavari Donkey Sanctuary. When the brick season ended last month a number of equines were abandoned or handed over to Animal Nepal.

Rani is joined by Star, a male 11 year old, who suffers from terrible saddle wounds. Another new resident is Marwari, a 14 year old male mule, whose hoofs are overgrown and suffers from malnutrition. Janet is a 15 year old blind female donkey, who finally will be allowed to stop hauling bricks.

Among the nine newcomers one also finds Rajani, a 12 year old male donkey, suffering from lameness, weakness and malnutrition. Similarly, Chang is a 14 year old female donkey whose saddle wound had become so badly infected she was oozing puss. She and Samir, a 10 year old male donkey, suffering from skin problems and malnutrition, now all will be given the best care possible, hoping they will be allowed to spend a few happy years in our sanctuary.

We also received mother donkey Rose and daughter Puffin, who were rescued by Beverly Waymark and spend two wonderful years at her residence.

Animal Nepal rented a temporary accommodation for some of the newcomers. They will move to the new sanctuary facilities once they are ready.

For an introduction of all our equine residents visit

Animal Nepal reaches out to scavenger donkeys in Nepalgunj

After having worked with some five hundred donkeys in brick kilns since December 2008, there is still so much we do not know about the conditions of working equines in Nepal. New facts and figures continue to shock us. 

In the Summer of 2009 we discovered something very unsettling. Until then we believed the owners of the equines when they said that, yes, their animals had to work hard under very harsh conditions when the brick kilns were running, but that after six months they would return to the hometown of the owners, Nepalgunj . The period May-December would be R&R time for the much abused animals. We believed them. I personally had a vision of donkeys standing under a thatch roof, chewing on fresh grass, nursing their aching bones.

The reality was a less prosaic one. When in May programme manager Krishna and vet Sudeep arrived in Nepalgunj in western Nepal at night, they were shocked to see donkeys on every street corner, rummaging through piles of rubbish. “Why are these donkeys outside on the street in the middle of the night?” they asked the taxi driver. “Oh, that’s where they live. The owners have no land so they abandon them on the street or in the jungle,” the driver remarked casually. 

These hardworking equines abandoned after slaving for their owners for six months in brick kilns in far away Kathmandu? Left to fend for themselves without being provided with any food and water? No place to hide from the sun and rain? And all that in the hottest city of the Nepali plains, where it gets as hot as 45 degrees Celsius?

In the following days Krishna and Sudeep saw donkeys giving birth on busy intersections, equines so malnourished they could hardly stand on their feet, and even blind ones bumping into cars and bikes. All of them searching for food and water; many of them were scolded and beaten by shopkeepers.

We gritted our teeth and as a first step published a report on the abuse of working equines in Nepalgunj. You can read the ‘Beasts of Burden’ report on our website under Reports and Docs. We then developed a petition called ‘Stop Donkey Misery in Nepal’ and collected over 1000 signatures. The plea was handed over to the Joint Secretary at the Ministry for Agriculture and Cooperatives.

It was a dream come true when on June 5, 2010 we were able to launch our Nepalgunj Outreach Programme with the support of Donkey Sanctuary UK and India. Krishna and Sudeep again spend two weeks in western Nepal to hire and train local staff and to introduce the programme among local authorities and media. The programme, supported by Donkey Sanctuary UK, started by organizing a press meet to inform the local media about the terrible conditions of equines in their city. The second step was an interaction meeting with the owners of the donkeys, discussing problems and solutions.

Specific objectives of the programme are to stop illegal import of unsuitable equines into Nepal, to improve health conditions of working equines with help of authorities, to improve economic conditions of owners and children, to increase awareness on working equine problems in the local community and to create exposure of the issue in the media.
We have hired a part time local vet, Prativa Shrestha, to treat sick and injured donkeys and to connect the owners to the government veterinary health system. We also hired Surendra Karki as a part time campaigner. He will be responsible for activating the authorities to register the animals, to build shelters, to improve quarantine services and to improve the economic conditions of the equine owners. 

Donkey Sanctuary India has promised to help us changing the habits of owners when buying new donkeys in India. Instead of buying the cheapest, weak equines, we will pressurize owners to buy healthy, strong horses and donkeys.

It is hard to be patient when faced with such a widespread form of animal cruelty. At times we feel like suing all donkey owners for gross violations. But if we want to improve conditions for the hundreds of ‘brick donkeys’ for good, at all levels, we have to work in a less aggressive, systematic manner.

For the time being it’s one donkey at a time until all working equines in Nepal are treated with respect.

Donkey in the back

Night was falling when I drove Animal Nepal’s rickety ambulance towards the Donkey Sanctuary. A man on a motorbike passed the car and looked inside. His face froze; he decreased his speed. Soon he drove along the ambulance, glancing inside.

The man was not eve teasing. He was looking at the patient in the back of the car, an adult white donkey, positioned rather uncomfortable in the tiny car. The donkey’s head partly stuck outside the window, her nostrils flaring. Once in a while she tried to reach me with her nose, as if to say, ‘please take me out of here.’

That morning Animal Nepal’s three vets, Sudeep, Surendra and Parisha, and myself drove to a remote brick factory in the Kathmandu Valley. The ambulance had trouble getting there; we had to cross streams, and navigate around boulders and bricks, apparently fallen off trucks. The kiln was located in a beautiful spot, on the shores of the Bagmati river, amidst fields covered in flowering bright yellow mustard, dotted with traditional mud houses. A scene from a tourist postcard.

However, when we parked the car inside the factory a very different picture emerged. Children dressed in rags, carrying younger siblings on their back, surrounded the ambulance. Their faces were covered in dust; some of the toddlers’ heads were shaven to prevent lice. There were no adults around; while the parents worked the children had to take of themselves and each other. None of the children had any toys. A boy wearing a dirty Nepali topi[1] pulled a wooden brick mold behind him through the dust.

We had to walk up a hill to find what we came for. The open air factory employs some fifty donkeys, mules and horses to carry unfired mud bricks from a hilltop down to the kiln where they are baked. Today we brought a first aid box and planned to teach the donkey owners (four in total) how to use the medicines.

The owners in this particular factory are cooperative, and often call us when a donkey is sick. Still, we were shocked by the conditions of the animals. They were overloaded and continuously beaten by wiry handlers, boys from poor families, as young as eleven.

The vets immediately started treating the animals. Apart from saddle wounds the donkeys and mules suffered from hoof problems and eye infections. One severely malnourished mule stood alone, too weak to move. “Minimum one week rest and mineral supplements twice a day,” adviced Sudeep, after providing the poor creature with a medicine to promote digestion. A mule suffering from laminitis, a very painful condition caused by inflammation of the hoof, was given two weeks rest.

“Please have a look at one of my new donkeys,” one owner requested, “she is blind and her back legs don’t work properly.” We walked over to the night shelter and found a pathetic looking donkey, lying on the path. The creature was dehydrated and malnourished, and seemed unable to walk. The vets became agitated. “Why did you not call us earlier? We won’t allow you to keep this donkey here in these conditions,” they told the owner.

A long debate started, in which the owners explained that someone took the donkey here from another kiln, and that, yes, he was agree to send the animal to our sanctuary. What’s more, he and his friend would personally carry her to the car.

That was how Shree Devi, as the donkey was named, ended up in the back of our ambulance.
Shree Devi at first was apprehensive. After the long, bumpy ride to Godavari, we had to literally pull her to her retirement home, supporting her back legs.

After her arrival the twelve other resident donkeys left the night shelter to sniff at Shree Devi. She easily passed the test. Then she enjoyed the first of many nourishing meals in her new home.

Animal Aid Abroad in 2010 supports Animal Nepal’s working donkey outreach programme and sanctuary for the second year. We support some 500 donkeys in ten brick kilns and hope to expand our programme to more brick factories later this year. Donkey and kiln owners claim that thanks to our work the conditions of donkeys have greatly improved. They say that the loads are smaller, that beating has decreased, and that the general health conditions of the animals are far better than before.

To some extent this is true – inputs such as regular de-worming and vaccinations, first aid boxes, improved harnesses, hoof cleaners, health camps and educational workshops have had a visible impact. Recently three new staff have been recruited to intensify our support services and emergency shelters are being constructed in key brick factories.
However, we still occasionally come across abused and injured donkeys such as Shree Devi. Next time when we visit a brick kiln we hope to leave empty handed…

Lucia de Vries
Volunteer Director Animal Nepal