In Zimbabwe, donkeys endure the most horrific abuse every day. They are forced to work when they are too young to do so and made to carry loads far too heavy for their bodies. They work without rest, water or food, and when they weaken, they are beaten or stabbed to force them to continue. Then, when their bodies finally give up, after years of unrelenting abuse, they are abandoned on roadsides.
Tragically, this was the fate of little Lulu, a tiny four-year-old donkey we recently rescued with our partner, Matabeleland Animal Rescue and Equine Sanctuary (MARES) in Bulawayo. We were with MARES when it received a call from a good Samaritan who had seen an ailing donkey in the dusty, poverty-stricken township of Old Pumula. The donkey was so small and emaciated, the Samaritan thought she was a foal.
We raced there, and when we arrived, Lulu was in one of the worst states we, and MARES, had ever seen. She had been lying grievously injured for three days, ignored by the authorities who are supposed to help animals in need. The sight of this tortured, broken animal brought every one of us to tears.
Lulu managed to stand up, but because of the extent of her injuries, including a horrifically damaged back leg, she could not walk – not even the ten steps it would have taken her to reach the MARES rescue vehicle. She was carried into the vehicle and simply collapsed. She was so close to death.
Later, we discovered that – over and above her other debilitating injuries – Lulu’s back hoof was severely infected all the way up to her fetlock, the hoof pouring with pus and blood.
Lulu died five days after being rescued – but we vow to fight for donkeys until tragedies like this stop happening.