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Morocco’s Jarjeer Refuge: Where Donkeys and Mules Go to Retire

After a life of toil and labor, the Jarjeer refuge provides a sanctuary where these animals can finally live the twilight years of their life with dignity.

The history of the Jarjeer Mule and Donkey Refuge

Susan Machin and her husband Charles Hantom were both lawyers in the United Kingdom. After retiring, they decided to move to Morocco.

“We resolved to come and live in Morocco as we had a connection with the kingdom going back several decades,” Susan Machin said in an interview with Morocco World News. 

After purchasing a villa 24 kilometers south of Marrakech, the couple moved to Morocco in 2010. During their stay, they often visited the Society for the Protection of Animals in North Africa (SPANA), where a veterinarian eventually suggested the couple adopt a young orphan donkey called Tommy. 

The vet had used the young donkey as a teaching aid in classes. However, when Tommy reached adolescence he started showing violent behavior towards children.

After Susan and Charles adopted Tommy, he remained very difficult to handle so SPANA advised them to purchase a strong female donkey that could knock him into shape, which fortunately worked. 

“I became very interested in donkey behavior and two donkeys soon turned into 12 donkeys. By the time, I made a decision that we could either have 12 pet donkeys or establish a charity to care for the elderly and the disabled,” she said.

Susan felt very strongly that there should be retirement rights for working animals at the end of their life or when injured.

Donkeys at Jarjeer refuge. Photo: Jarjeermules/Facebook

The couple quickly had to learn how to communicate and manage equines after they started accepting some mules from the Atlas Mountains. The shelter owners had a huge soft spot for mules because of their intelligent nature that many often underestimate or misunderstand. They soon decided to commit themselves to look after donkeys and mules in need of long-term homes, founding the Jarjeer Mule and Donkey Refuge.

The Jarjeer Mule and Donkey Refuge leads with values

In the time of COVID-19, the organization is housing many equines whose owners abandoned them in a dire state, reaching 130 donkeys and mules at the refuge. The organization also took in Caleche horses that were suffering from starvation, recovering them to good health and returning them to their owners.

The refuge’s central objective is “to relieve the suffering of working animals in Morocco in need of care and to encourage and assist owners of equines to maintain standards required to keep animals in safe and in good health.”

Susan firmly believes in equality and care for the most vulnerable in society whether human or animal.

The refuge employs 14 people which is important during the pandemic as it supports 14 families in the local village. The Jarjeer Mule and Donkey Refuge became the biggest local consumer of animal food. They purchase wheat locally, which enables locals to gainfully grow wheat at home, rather than traveling to Marrakech for work.

Jarjeer refuge donkeys. Photo: jarjeer.orrg

“Our staff is magnificent and shows incredible skills and kindness towards the animals.”

Being the only facility that serves as a care center for animals that have no hope elsewhere, the refuge tries its best to shed light and awareness on what these animals face. These animals are vital to people’s livelihoods in rural areas.

As a non-profit organization, the refuge faced and continues to face difficulties, relying on self-funding out of their pensions at the start; currently, they depend on donations. They hope to receive government funding so they can take the pressure off individual donors to some extent, to continue to care for and shelter these animals and reach their long-term goals.

A day at Jarjeer Mule and Donkey Refuge

Donkeys eating at Jarjeer refuge. Photo: Jarjeermules/Facebook

A typical day at the Jarjeer Mule and Donkey Refuge starts at 8:00 a.m. with cleaning all the paddocks and the stables and then feeding the animals four times throughout the day. With a daily assessment of the animals, the staff redresses an injured animal’s wounds daily. Two members of the staff are always traveling to collect donkeys and mules from all over Morocco.

Susan takes the administration and social media responsibilities, documenting the organization’s events on a regular basis so supporters and donors can feel their involvement in the day-to-day activities of the refuge.

Susan and Charles could not decide on their favorite part of their work because no day in the refuge is like the others. They face challenges every day but are grateful they still get to work and use their principles and ethics after retirement.

“We are hugely proud of our staff that does a remarkable job and have developed skills that I doubt exist elsewhere in Morocco. Their ability to treat the animals, including making splints for broken legs and repairing damaged hooves is groundbreaking,” Susan added.

Impact of the Jarjeer Mule and Donkey Refuge

Jarjeer refuge. Photo: Jarjeermules/Facebook

Visits to the shelter play a big role in increasing awareness and financial support, as visitors interact with the animals. The refuge welcomes people from all over the world, where they can enjoy light refreshments. The refuge is currently building a small boutique for baskets and Jarjeer teddy bears.

However, Susan stressed that “we never want to become a commercial enterprise as the work with the animals is the priority.”

The refuge changed the lives of the owners beyond recognition. Susan and Charles invest their money, time, and effort in the shelter to help the old, disabled, and abused donkeys and mules that spend their life helping people.

“Thankfully we have children who agree with us and will ensure that the refuge remains for the benefit of the Moroccan people long after the time we have gone.”

To rescue provides a home and a family for donkeys and mules after a long life of hard work.

The owners and the staff devote their life to a never-ending journey. The Jarjeer Mule and Donkey Refuge also plays a role in the relationship between the local community and tourism. To contact the refuge you can either head to their site, or check their Instagram and Facebook accounts.


Source: Morocco World News.

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