India’s first donkey sanctuary in Leh is helping the working animals with disabilities since 2008


By Sakshi Aggarwal

In most of the societies donkeys are used as working animals, often forced to do more work than their small bodies can bear. And because they can be bought at a very cheap rate, they are often mistreated.

In the present age when rarely someone sheds a tear for the suffering and pain of other humans, it would be hopeless to even think that people would care for low-status animal like donkeys.

However South African photographer Joanne Lefson is one such being, who understood the plight of the donkeys of Ladakh region in India and took the initiative to set up the first donkey sanctuary of the country in Ladakh in the year 2008.

Respect for the lives of the donkeys in the sanctuary has been shown in such a manner like never before. The sanctuary is primarily funded by Joanne Lefson and the local affairs are looked after by Stany Wangchuk.

Donkeys inhabiting the sanctuary are primarily those which can no longer work, because of some disability or due to old age.

The sanctuary has not been established with the sole motive of profit. This is evident from the expenditure Joanne has to bear. The food bill of the donkeys sums up to Rs.4, 000 per day. The diet given to them includes wheat, biscuits, grass and medicines.

Moreover, the monthly rent adds up to Rs.30, 000 for the property. Joanne pays most of the bills for the sanctuary, managing 1 per cent from the donations.

However, some of the donors complain that why the donkeys are allowed to mate and conceive. They argue that there are already several other such donkeys, present outside the sanctuary, which need help.

Joanne talking about his experience says, “It has been a fantastic experience so far- and I plan to return each year to feed my ‘children’ carrots and everything else that’s sweet in life.”


Future plans

The sanctuary intends to look after more needy animals in the future and provide shelter to at least 40 donkeys at a time. Implementation of this whole idea would cost INR 3,75,000 which includes land rent, transportation and food.

Apart from this, expense for salary of the caretaker, manager and the vet doctor also needs to be managed by the sanctuary.