Lamu sanctuary that is haven for donkeys


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As the garage is to cars, so is a sanctuary to Lamu donkeys. These animals in this town aren’t just your normal beasts of burden.

They are the only authorised means of transport in Lamu’s Old Town.

Here, they are treated with utmost care and respected like human beings.

And just like cars need garages when they have malfunctioned, so do donkeys need a hospital when sick.

Lamu Donkey Sanctuary, an inpatient and outpatient centre which has been in operation since 1987.

It is the county’s only ‘specialised’ health care facility for donkeys.

It boasts six staff members, among them; a farm attendant, a windmill attendant since the facility relies on wind power for its electricity, a furrier (hoof cutter), an animal welfare assistant, an office attendant and a veterinary officer.

Apart from providing treatment for sick donkeys, the facility also looks after orphaned, old and abandoned donkeys for free.

For those visiting Lamu Old town, which is also a World Heritage Site you will easily catch a glimpse of the sanctuary which is located on the Seafront of the historical town, just few metres next to the Kenya Power offices.

The presence of the animal sanctuary in Lamu proves beyond doubt that the donkeys are a treasured lot in this archipelago compared to other livestock like goats, sheep, cows, camels, chicken and ducks.

Dr Felix Rachuonyo, the senior veterinary officer at the sanctuary, said the facility treats all sorts of donkey ailments and trains owners on basic care of the animals.

“In patient means we admit donkeys, keep and monitor them until they recover after which we hand them back to their owners while with outpatient, we treat and release the donkeys to their owners on the same day,” says Dr Rachuonyo.

The centre also provides gynaecological services to the donkeys, helping them give birth.

“When owners have established that their donkeys have problems giving birth, we advise them to bring in the animal several weeks to delivery. We closely monitor it and help in a safe delivery,” says Dr Rachuonyo.

In addition, the sanctuary also offers outreach services for those in far flung places such as Kizingitini, Faza, Pate, Tchundwa and other areas on the other side of the ocean in Lamu East.

“We train on how to restrain, handle, communicate with the donkeys, taking into consideration their welfare and wellbeing. We train [owners] on basic wound management, hoof care and on disease detection,” the doctor says.

The sanctuary also launched an education outreach programme and staff visit local schools to train pupils how to take care of their donkeys at home.

“We also have an awareness function where we teach the general public on the welfare of donkeys,” said Dr Rachuonyo.

The sanctuary also provides information to donkey owners on the animals rights.

“Many don’t understand that donkeys also have rights and freedoms that need to be observed. They include freedom from hunger where we insist on owners to ensure their animals are provided with adequate food and water. Others include freedom to comfort, right to shelter, freedom to express normal behaviour, right to treatment when sick, and freedom to socialise with other donkeys, right to love and kindness as well as right to a good rest between work. All these lessons are provided by the centre free of charge,” says Dr Rachuonyo.

Lamu is the only Island at the Swahili Coast with the highest number of donkeys. Donkeys constitute 90 percent of domestic animals in Lamu with a population of more than 10,000.


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