The pandemic has meant that visits to Burrolandia have declined, so the sanctuary is now looking for sponsors to help support them with food, medicine, and money.
“Bam Bam” is a mammoth donkey, an American breed that is characterized by its large size (they can measure up to two meters), who was part of a show at a private zoo in the State of Mexico. Due to business problems, they were forced to close, and the animals were put up for sale.
He would have ended up at the slaughterhouse if the team from Burrolandia (Donkeyland) hadn’t rescued him, as they did for “Chente,” (Vicente) “Pimienta” (Pepper), “Pezuñas” (Hooves), “Chimi” (Gap-Toothed), “Speedy,” “Copo de nieve” (Snowflake), “Pulque,” and many more. There are 68 donkeys in total, and they all have a name and a story, usually one full of abuse, mistreatment, and exploitation.
The rescued animals come from Hidalgo, Tlaxcala, the State of Mexico, Querétaro, Puebla, San Luis Potosí, and Mexico City.
Some of them arrive at Burrolandia malnourished with injured legs, mutilated ears, or no teeth. Burrolandia is a park that promotes protective tourism and offers donkeys something that seemed unthinkable: a decent life.
For centuries, donkeys helped humans carry heavy loads from one place to another. Thanks to their bone structure, they can support up to 140 kilograms on their backs.
Donkeys are originally from Africa and were domesticated around 6,000 years ago by the Egyptians. They have spread around the world as work animals.
Donkeys came to the American continent with the Spanish, replacing the work of the “tlamemeh,” indigenous laborers who carried loads on their backs.
Today these equidae, distant relatives of horses and zebras, are being replaced by machines. They have been neglected and mistreated by their former owners, who no longer see a use for them.
Once part of the rural landscape in Mexico, the population of donkeys (Equus africanus asinus) is now in decline. The National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI for its initials in Spanish) estimates that there are 500,000 donkeys in the country.
Many of them are being traded on the illegal market as their skin is exported to China and used to make a gel that is believed to have medicinal properties.
Due to the rapid decline in population worldwide, Spain has Burrolandia: The Association of Friends of the Donkey, and the UK has The Donkey Sanctuary. Just as in Mexico, they are sanctuaries for this species that has been mistreated by humans.
The park extends to almost three hectares. Everything in it relates to donkeys: there is a donkey car, a donkey train, a donkey doctor, and a donkey photographer.
There were many visitors before the pandemic. They participated in activities with games such as being given false donkey ears, saw the donkeys, went on guided tours into town, and ate local food, but the health crisis made everything difficult. Now, people can only visit by reservation.
“We don’t have any state support, only the members of the public who visit us. They bring us food and give donations to help us maintain the place,” says Germán Flores Sauza, founder of Burrolandia.
They had to close visits to the public for a year and postpone many rescues.
Due to the precarious situation, the number of bales of alfalfa, oats, and barley fed to them was reduced, and veterinary care had to be prioritized to those who needed it most.
Caring for a donkey costs 700 pesos per month if they are healthy, but if they have any health problems, it can cost up to 1,800 pesos per month.
“They get medical treatment for their wounds. We interact with them and let them know that they will be protected and cared for,” says Flores Souza.
They even play music to them and show them love because they know they have had a difficult past.
Burrolandia is located in Otumba, in the State of Mexico. Donkeys are respected there because it was a regional marketplace that lived off the donkey trade in the past.
People used to say, “If you want a donkey, go to Otumba,” because the healthiest and best-looking ones were found there.
Since 1965, they have organized a party for the donkeys every May 1, matching the date with International Workers’ Day because they consider the donkey the hardest worker of all.
Raúl Flores, administrator of Burrolandia, explains that donkeys can live up to 40 years if they are provided with food and care, but they don’t live more than 13 years in poor conditions.
Burrolandia receives reports from members of the public about donkeys that need rescuing.
“In cases of mistreatment, we try to talk with the owners. Sometimes, the mistreatment is because they don’t provide the right veterinary care, so we offer it to them. If they refuse, we offer to make a trade. We’ve given people motorcycles and money,” says Flores.
In most cases, the owners accept. They avoid involving the authorities so the donkeys are not hidden or made to disappear. All they want is to guarantee their wellbeing.
To deal with the crisis, Burrolandia is looking for sponsors to support them with their upkeep.
Pick a donkey.
Send a digital photo of yourself to go in the album of sponsors.
Select a timeframe (from three months to a year).
Select the type of support: financial (there is no particular amount), food, or medicine.
Provide a WhatsApp number or email address so you can receive photos, videos, and even video calls of your sponsored animal.
You can even go and help take care of your donkey; groom it, feed it, and play with it.
There are already newborns –which they call “pollinos”– born to donkeys whose health has improved there. The founders of Burrolandia hope that, in the future, healthy generations of donkeys can be put up for adoption with people who will care for them, thus reducing the accelerated disappearance of donkeys in Mexico.
In the meantime, they are inviting everyone to visit Burrolandia to see how important it is not to inflict suffering on this or any other species.