Filou is one of 39 battered donkeys that have found a new life in the Aline donkey home in Feldbach ZH.
Jonas DreyfusEditor society
Edina stands on shaky legs. The 30-year-old donkey suddenly couldn’t get up two months ago. That’s why she hung in a net from the ceiling of the stable for a while. Like a cow in a helicopter transport. Now it’s back to running to some extent. But because donkeys do not accept members of their own species who are in poor health, the animal has been given a single place in front of the stable. There it is chewing up an apple in slow motion.
In the Aline donkey home in Feldbach ZH, donkeys that no one wanted anymore can enjoy a good life. Almost all of the 39 animals that are doing this at the moment have had a long ordeal behind them. Their former owners have fed them wrongly, neglected them and left them alone. Edina had severe pain when she came to the home, says Viktor Huber (73). He has been running it with his wife Hanni (74) for twenty years. The soft and damp soils in Switzerland cause big problems for the hooves of donkeys. Because their wild forms come from semi-deserts and mountainous regions of North Africa and the Near East.
There – or in the area of today’s Turkey – Saint Nicholas is said to have been on the move in the first half of the 4th century, whose members of Christian cultures commemorate on December 6th. He was known for his generosity and would travel around on a donkey that was made to carry gifts. That is why the Samichlaus, as we know him today, is traditionally accompanied by a donkey in addition to Schmutzli.
Rental requests for donkeys will be strictly rejected
“I don’t think much of that,” says Huber. Because for the animal, crowds of people – even if they consist of children – are a great deal of stress. In addition, most Klauses would have no idea how to handle a donkey. “We have rental requests every year, which we all reject.”
The residents seem to enjoy life without any pressure to perform. They stand around in the large outdoor enclosure with the “facial expression” typical of donkeys, like someone who has just woken up. Only once does the call of an animal interrupt the cosiness, which is then repeated by all the others. It sounds like a creaking wooden door: “Yeah, yah, yah.”
Around twenty years ago, the Hubers had the idea of building a sanctuary for donkeys. It finances itself with sponsorships and donations. “More bad than right,” says Huber. Maintenance and care cost around CHF 3,500 per animal per year. Every donkey that comes to the sanctuary is subjected to a health check at the animal hospital in Zurich.
When sad animals stop eating
There have been around 100 animals since the home was founded. Many would have been euthanized if they had not found a place here. Not because they were old, says Huber, but because they have been severely neglected. The home could accommodate many more animals if space were not limited. The number of donkeys in Switzerland has increased by a third in the past seven years. In the middle of the year, 11,206 animals were reported, as the Federal Office for Agriculture told the CH Media newspapers.
Why does someone get such a big animal and then not look at it properly? The reason for this is that donkeys are completely underestimated, especially when it comes to their social needs, says Huber. He is standing next to the dark brown Eddi with the snow-white nose. Before he came to the home, Eddi had been separated from his sister and had stopped eating out of grief. “We stood by him day and night until he started eating again.”