DONKEYS from Bulawayo and its environs have been left vulnerable to diseases following the closure of the Donkey Protection Trust clinic, the only free donkey treating clinic in the area.
The clinic, located in the city's Douglasdale area, closed down recently after it could not sustain operations anymore following the death of Ian Redmond, the trust's director and licensed veterinary inspector.
The trust, which was supported by the United Kingdom based Animal Charity Organisation, and the Society for the Protection of Animal Abroad, has been involved in treating sick donkeys and as well as working towards the general welfare of donkeys in Zimbabwe.
When NewZimbabwe.com visited the clinic last week, there was no activity taking place at the once busy centre.
"The death of Mr Redmond has completely grounded operations here," said Moses Membe, one of the two animal welfare assistants at the clinic.
"We have been turning away a lot people who have come with their sick donkeys because we are not qualified to attend to the animals without a trained veterinary doctor."
Membe said they have since approached local animal welfare organisations seeking solutions on how the project can get back to its feet.
Before Redmond's death, Membe said the clinic used to treat around 1,500 animals over four days.
Membe said the most common disease they used to treat was anaemia, which in severe cases can be life threatening.
"Anaemia among donkeys is very common and usually results from an infection caused by a blood parasite which is passed to donkeys from ticks," he said.
"This season higher cases of anaemia among donkeys are likely to be very high because of the heavy rains which most parts of the country have been experiencing."
The clinic also used to handle numerous cases of diseases such as tetanus, eye problems, hoof abnormalities and a variety of wounds.
It was also used to administering routine treatment such as tooth rasping, de-worming, vaccinating and dipping. Free harnessing and other advice issues pertaining to donkeys were also offered at the clinic free of charge.
Due to the prevailing harsh economic conditions in the country, both poorer urban residents and rural communities in Matabeleland are increasingly reliant on donkeys for trade and transport.
In some instances, donkeys come in handy as draught power and as a cheap means of transport for poor families.