A home for donkeys in Leh
by Harsimran Gill
23 November 2011
Home for helpless donkeys
Road to Khardungla Pass
Village Khakshal Yurtung, Leh
Email: email@example.com www.donkeysanctuary.in
Mention a trip to Leh and everyone around you will have a long list of recommendations. Monasteries, cafés and trips to the lakes: nothing is left out. Yet very few people know about one of our favourite places there: a sanctuary for old and injured donkeys.
This haven for the incredibly cute, ubiquitous Himalayan donkeys can be reached by a 40 minute walk from Chungspa, the main backpacker part of town. The sights gradually change from cafés and guesthouses to pretty houses set amidst farmland and vegetable patches: it’s a beautiful walk, offering spectacular views and wonderful respite from the busy heart of town full of tourists.
At the sanctuary, one is welcomed with colourful gates painted with cartoons explaining what the place is and how it started. Past the gate is a big field full of milling donkeys, a shed in the corner for food supplies and rooms to lodge the animals during the long, cold winter. Brightly painted rocks and boards dot the area with inspired messages such as ‘Sit here. Relax. Reflect. Eat Carrots’.
Founded in 2008 by South African journalist Joanne Lefson, the sanctuary is financed by donations from visitors and well-wishers and takes care of the many donkeys that are too old to be used as transportation and are set loose to fend for themselves, as well as of the ones who got injured, often after being hit by a car or attacked by dogs. These donkeys wouldn't be able to survive on the streets, especially in the harsh Ladakhi winter.
The animals are looked after by a caretaker who makes regular trips to the market to procure food for them and a nearby veterinarian helps with the treatment of wounded or sick donkeys. Tourists and locals alike are encouraged to contact the sanctuary when they spot a donkey in need or even better, lead it to its new home, maybe with the help of a carrot or two.