An Assessment of donkeys’ welfare using physical and emotional parameters: a Case of Mkwinda EPA, Bunda Area, Lilongwe, Malawi
A donkey (Equus africanus asinus) is commonly used for traction by smallholder farmers in Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi, where most of the donkey population is concentrated. Though donkeys‘ behaviour is often mistakenly interpreted as aggressive, they arestoic and generally considered weaker animals compared to oxen. This in turn raises concern over their treatment and general wellbeing as they are being used to support livelihoods of smallholder farmers. A study was done in Lilongwe, Mkwinda EPA, using the hands-on donkey welfare toolin form of a semi structured questionnaire, on 48 donkeys, to examine physical parameters which were body condition, lameness, wound availability, other signs of injury and disease and the emotional parameter which looks at the donkey‘s behavior which were scored ‗best‘ to ‗worst‘ numerated by values ranging from one to five respectively. Analysis was done using descriptive statistics and Spearman‘s rank order correlation. The results indicate most of the sampled donkeys fall under the ideal BCS of 3 while other parameters scored differently, giving ―worst‖ scores of 5 for lameness and behaviour, ―worse‖ scores of 4 for wounds and other signs of injury and disease parameter. There is a positive correlation between wounds and Lameness score, significant at 0.362 (P< 0.05). This insinuates that prolonged standing in grazing wetlands causes softening of the skin in the hoof regions which results in wound prevalence hence the difficulty in the gait. The study specifically revealed that the majority of the sampled donkeys were affected by poor water and feed intake, poor housing, lack of donkey veterinary clinics, unhygienic grazing areas, inappropriate handling of donkeys and lack of knowledge on the need for good donkey welfare. Furthermore, most of the donkeys, after reaching the end of their production cycle, were used for light loading, left on free range, or sold to others. Therefore, there is an intensive need to enhance donkey welfare.
Key words: hands-on donkey welfare, semi structured questionnaire, physical and emotional parameters, descriptive statistics, Spearman‘s rank order correlation