The Maasai depend very much on their donkeys. Many travel long distances to draw water and to buy the corn meal that is an important part of their diet. Without donkeys the women would find it impossible to carry the heavy containers of water and bags of cornflower over long distances. Hence, a donkey is a highly valued possession. A family living far out on the plains without a donkey has a very hard time of it. These tireless helpers can be very expensive to buy and can cost as much as a milk cow.
One problem with donkeys is that they generally will not stay with the family herd when the cattle are taken to pasture each day. Donkeys form groups of their own and wander the plains at their own whim and pace. Often the donkey can’t be found when a woman needs it to accompany her on a trip to a spring or dam to carry the bucket size containers of water back to the village. It can take many hours to locate and bring a donkey home. The animal is often times is grazing with other donkeys far from the Maasai village.
Another disadvantage to the donkeys not wanting to be part of the family herd of cattle, sheep and goats is that they are roaming unprotected. Out on the plains, warriors take the village herds to pasture because there is constant danger of attacks by leopards, lions and hyenas. Donkeys, grazing on their own, lack this protection and are often killed or maimed by a hyena or leopard.
Here at Olbalbal recently, there has been a number of hyena attacks on sheep, goats, cattle and often donkeys. The resulting wounds in the animals that survive these deadly assaults are horrendous. These deep gashes made by claws and teeth can take months to heal. In include here some pictures of a frequent visitor to our water point here on the mission. We have come to know this particular donkey so felt badly that he was in so much pain. As it turned out our badly mauled donkey died a few days ago.