Donkeys roam all over our town. The other day we came across one that had been waiting patiently at a gate, lost patience and began braying and stamping its feet. We assume it is used to being given a carrot or some other food there. Early one morning in another part of town we saw a donkey walking up and down along a stretch of the pavement when a woman came out, still wearing her dressing gown, with a basin of water and a bunch of carrots. “I feed them every morning”, she told us. In fact, driving around the suburbs, I have become conscious of several plastic basins of water placed on the pavements outside homes and imagine these are mostly for the benefit of donkeys.
Yes, these donkeys do have owners. They are occasionally rounded up to pull carts to collect firewood or to transport other goods from one place to the next. One can tell that not all have been treated well for many bear the marks of having been lashed, while others have open sores. An elderly couple were spotted recently rubbing salve on the leg of a donkey outside their home. Other donkeys have their tails trimmed in different ways, to differentiate one from another: I have seen several with the tail hairs cut short around the edges, leaving a long section in the middle; some tails have been cut straight at the bottom; others at an angle – all to make it easier for their owners to recognise them.
We have seen this particular trio of donkeys grazing in the veld on the hill opposite our house and have named them the ‘forest donkeys’. Okay, there is no forest there; there never was, but all the young trees that have been growing since the area was devastated by fire a few years ago have been eaten by herds of cattle that roam the area.
These donkeys are on the road leading to the army base on the edge of town – the buildings in the background – and are next to the aerodrome. The latter is well fenced and we have not yet seen any animals grazing on it.
While donkeys do not belong in urban areas, we have become used to their presence and who can resist the plight of these creatures that are used and abandoned at will by their owners. Until this area receives the rain it so sorely needs, many kind-hearted residents will continue to provide water and carrots to help them along.