Welfare Assessment and Identification of the Associated Risk Factors Compromising the Welfare of Working Donkeys (Equus asinus) in Egyptian Brick Kilns
Farhat, Shaaban F.
McLean, Amy K.
Mahmoud, Hamdy F. F.
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Donkeys are a cornerstone in human existence, having played an important role throughout history in different economic activities, such as working in brick kilns in Egypt. This study was conducted from January 2017 to the end of April 2017 in the El-Saf brick kilns, which are located to the south of the Giza Governorate and 57 Km away from Cairo. Physical clinical health and behavior data were collected from 179 donkeys spanning over a random sample of 20 brick kilns selected from the El-Saf brick kilns. Behavioral, physical health, harness, and environmental parameters were assessed and recorded. The study found that 80 ± 3% (n = 179) of kiln donkeys have some type of wound, and the most serious wound is a beating wound (49 ± 3.7%), which is caused by drivers hitting the donkeys. The drivers are mostly children, who have insufficient knowledge, skills, and attitudes to effectively communicate with their donkeys and no motivation to enhance the welfare of these equids. Other wounds are related to the harness, such as the breeching (10 ± 2.2%), saddle (43 ± 3.7%), neck collar (40 ± 3.6%), and shaft of the cart (12 ± 2.4%). A poor body condition was seen in 56 ± 3.7% of kiln donkeys. A correlation in terms of the prevalence of wounds was found between the body condition (p-value < 0.01) and/or cleanliness of the harness. There was a negative association between the body condition and wound prevalence in brick kilns (Pearson coefficient of correlation −0.71). The physical enviromental factors that affect the body condition of working donkeys are the working hours of donkeys/day, the number of donkeys in a kiln, the distance from loading to the oven, and the concentrated food/donkey (p-value < 0.01). These three variables can explain 78.85% of the variability in body conditions based on a 1–5 scale. In addition to health parameters, behavior parameters, such as the donkeys’ general attitude, reaction to observers, and chin contact are associated with the body condition (p-value < 0.01). As a consequence, it is important for the owners of working donkeys to pay attention to their body condition in order to avoid compromising their body condition and welfare.