The focus of our support for Bam Animal Clinics is donkeys: We support Bam's efforts to hold veterinary outreach clinics and train donkey owners on how to make humane sisal saddles. Currently, with AKI support, Bam is working in the Eastern region of Uganda, in the Elgon region, covering the Districts of Kween, Bukwo, and Kapchorwa, where the highest concentration of donkeys is found. They have just launched a donkey welfare program in Sebei region, and we hope to help them strengthen their efforts there too.
Sisal saddles protect donkeys from wounds caused by carrying goods with poor/no protection. Imagine if donkeys had to carry these loads of firewood without sisal saddles protecting their backs:
Bam's donkey veterinary outreach clinics are so important because private veterinary services are too expensive and government veterinary extension services are limited. Typically, once a donkey appears to be ill, it will be slaughtered or sold to butchers to slaughter and raise money to cover financial obligations.
Government policy is to post a vet surgeon in every sub-county assisted by at least 2 veterinary para-professionals. But most vets posted in these rural areas end up returning to work in towns for the higher pay, thus leaving most rural areas without expert vet services.
The para-vets are more likely to stay in the rural areas, providing the only animal healthcare available. But the para-vets aren't trained to handle the range of veterinary issues that come up. Therefore, most animals in the rural areas receive inadequate veterinary care--and the animals are subject to unnecessary pain and suffering. Bam fills this gap by providing free veterinary clinics.
Before Bam holds a veterinary outreach clinic, their colleagues in Kween and Bukwo, Mr. Kwemoi Collins and Cheroto Jonah, notify the local communities about the clinics--in this case, that clinics would be held at the end of September at Kaproron Sub County headquarters. Mr. Collins and Mr. Jonah do a great job--as these crowds attest:
At Kaproron Sub County headquarters, the Bam team found donkeys with many different health conditions, some even requiring simple surgeries. One donkey was limping badly and the Bam team found stones stuck in her hoof and saw that the hoof had been lacerated. The damage was severe. The team thoroughly cleaned the wound, removed foreign objects, and treated it to prevent infections. They followed up the next day, but to their horror, this donkey could not be spared and was needed to carry loads despite the state of her hoof. Bam vets spoke to the owner and strongly encouraged her to allow the donkey to rest or she was at risk of losing the animal. Bam's field-based team is following up on this case.
This young donkey had a lot of wounds on her back (the one with the blue antibiotic spray):
The team was surprised to find out that this wasn't due to loading, but to inhumane training methods. Owners often start training their donkeys at an early age--too early, and sometimes the trainer believes that a donkey will only understand toughness and cruelty, so an owner will beat the donkey to try to get him to learn-obviously this is not a good, humane, or reasonable method. The Bam team treated the donkey and talked with the owner about better ways of training. Again, Bam's field-based colleagues will follow up.
Besides veterinary care, Bam trained the donkey owners how to make sisal saddles. First, the Bam team held a demo to show the group how to make the saddles:
An almost completed sisal saddle being fit on a donkey:
There was a lot of excitement among the donkey owners when they formed groups to make their own saddles. Bam handed out more than 100 pairs of sisal sacks to be made into saddles and given out to owners. These will go a long way to reducing the pain and injuries of working donkeys.
Of course the animal welfare concerns in the region aren't restricted to donkeys, Dogs, cats, and cattle are equally in need of vet care and owners need to learn more about how to humanely care for their animals.
Bam's vet outreach clinics coincided with World Rabies Day on 28 September, so while inviting donkey owners for donkey clinics and saddle training, they also called for owners to bring their dogs and cats for rabies vaccination and other vet care free of charge.
Approximately 33,000 people die annually from rabies in Uganda, mostly transmitted by dog bites. Because people are so fearful of rabies, even healthy dogs and cats are killed just because they may be suspected of having rabies. Bam has vaccinated more than 72,000 dogs in 50 villages and town over the past several years.
This year, for World Rabies Day they vaccinated many dogs in Kween and handed out certificates for all dogs vaccinated:
Bam has now trained 20 people as sisal saddle making trainers, who will continue to train people in 10 sub counties in the three districts of Kween, Bukwo, and Kapchorwa. In this way, saddle making skills will spread quickly throughout the region.
Bam still has many challenges to overcome before they reach the all the populations they hope to and have the full impact they believe they can.
They are always in need of medications and fuel to reach the far-flung donkey communities. Ideal would be to purchase two more motorbikes (AKI previously funded one motorbike) to reach areas that aren't easily reached along the road network.
We believe that animals that do so much for humans (which is all animals) should receive the care they need to live a pain-free life. We also love donkeys because they are interesting and adorable: