Health awareness camp for Equines working at Katra, Jammu

Jammu and Kashmir is one of the highest donkeys and mule populated states in India, ranking second in mule population (36,508) and sixth in donkey population (17,245) as per the 2012 Livestock census. Working donkeys and mules play a very important role in MaaVaishno Devi Pilgrimage site, Katra. Majority of the working equines are used as pack animals, which is the most important mode for transport of market goods, construction materials and to clear the rubbish. Mules, Ponies and horses are used to carry people up hill to the shrine site. We realised the limitations of services available for the working donkeys and mules, but most of the welfare issues are preventable. The equine owners can be educated on proper care and management of their precious equines who are the main source for their livelihood in this region of Jammu and Kashmir. Equines in mountain.

Donkeys - 17,245 | Mules - 36,508

Working equine population at Katra – 10,000 (approx)

‘Donkey Sanctuary India’ in support with ‘Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine board’ organises bi annual health & welfare camp in Katra as this is a place where more than 12000 Mules, Ponies and Horses are used to carry pilgrims to Mata Vaishno Devi. Usually cases found here are of Lameness especially due to poor hoofs due to closed rubber shoes which keep the feet moist always. Dental cases due to continuous bran feeding are also predominant as animals have very scarce availability of long or medium stemmed forage. Inappetance, worms load, GI upset such as diarrhoea, colic and tying up are also common problems. Average 1000 equines are attended during these biannual camps. The education team also carries out various educational activities to generate awareness on preventative problems during this camp.

These equines are livelihood of many local residents; they work tirelessly to make life easier and better. The pilgrimages are also benefitting directly or indirectly from the services of these working animals. Both animals and humans working here are exposed to tremendous hardships daily walking up and down the track of 12kms in this Himalayan range. On an average a Mule / Pony or Horses are working for 8-10 hours per day.

At this time of the year there were 4800 – 5000 equines working at the shrine premises carrying pilgrimages and loads day and night.

There are two categories of work mostly done by the equines at the shrine: • Equines carrying pilgrimages to shrine: Working with pack saddles and blankets on back.

Equines carrying loads to the shrine: Working with gunny bags or blankets on back. Loads include building materials / gas cylinders / items for shops onroute.

Health and welfare status of equids carrying loads are:

  • Poor body condition.
  • Poor hoofs
  • Poor shelters & hygiene (lying in faeces).
  • Back sores
  • Old and young aged animals worked extensively.

DSI’s camp clinic observation reveals that highest numbers of cases are:

  • Gastro Intestinal upset / inappetance / frequent colic’s.
  • Lameness
  • Harness Wounds
  • Poor BCS
  • The feeding regime of these equines needs to be addressed; we wish to share the right content and mode of feeding of equines.

    Also share with equine owners:

    • The different causes of lameness
      • Introduce few basic daily practises of equine husbandry management,
  • Capacity building of local health care service providers and farrier is very essential.
  • Share with owners the relation of BCS (Body condition score) Harness wounds. More of preventative approaches to address the health and welfare of the equines.
  • DSI ensures the equines carrying load up the hill get their basic necessities i.e., feed / shelter to rest / water/ health care.
  • Maintain the good rapport developed with shrine board in times to come. Training and support the local equine health care service providers / improve health delivery system.

Activities during camp:

  • Animal based welfare assessment
  • Sessions on Health issues like colic, wound management, vaccination and lameness.
  • Health assessment of pack animals straying after work followed by discussion with owners.
  • We provide Health care to sick and injured animals presented during the camp and consultation for others.
  • Session on importance of Watering to animals, rehydration ( sugar+ salt+ water ) after work and its impact on prevention of lameness.