The sanctuary rescuing donkeys from the demon of depression


Depression is a silent killer. And it doesn’t just afflict humans. When two nameless donkeys arrived on Annemarie and Johan van Zijl’s doorstep, the animals’ eyes told the couple what was wrong. The donkeys had been abused and neglected, and were untrusting of humans. So the Van Zijls did the first thing that all new parents do – they named the new additions to their family. Vaal and Japie became the start of the Eseltjiesrus Donkey Sanctuary. The only one of its kind in South Africa.

At the sanctuary, which is now home to 22 donkeys, each member of the family is unique and accordingly named. Among the colourful group is Eeyore, Blondie, Thabo, and of course, Donkey – a family name, not to be confused with donkey.  A decade of loving care for the often-overlooked, gentle creatures has seen the safe haven develop a strongly bonded community of donkeys. They are social animals that form lifelong friendships, just like us.

That’s been the message of Eseltjiesrus: donkeys need love too. It’s an educational institution as much as a home for the lost, hoping to teach local communities how to better take care of these animals. Donkeys play an important role in the lives of many in the area. The sanctuary speaks for them, with the hope that soon the community itself will do more of the talking. As South Africans pull together to develop this country, the Van Zijls are making sure that our animals are included in the process.