In March of 2014 a small group of veterinarians and vet techs traveled to Salt Cay, a tiny island in the Turks and Caicos, to help the feral donkeys that reside there. Salt Cay is a 2 mile long island that was used by the British for salt mining from the 1700’s until approx 1930. Donkeys were brought from Britain and Bermuda in the 1700’s to help mine the salt and were left behind when the salt mines were abandoned in the 1930’s. These donkeys have eeked out a life on Salt Cay since then. The island doesn’t have a reliable fresh water source for the donkeys and they survive by eating the sparse vegetation on the island, consisting mostly of acacia bushes. Some years a number of foals are born and the population of donkeys increases, but due to lack of food and water and occasional hurricanes, a number of donkeys perish each year. Currently there are 25-35 donkeys living on the island. The Turks and Caicos government has in the past discussed allowing Haitians to come to Salt Cay and capture the donkeys and take them back to Haiti by boat to be working donkeys. There are rumors that this has happened in the past to a small number of Salt Cays donkeys, but not on a large scale. This is not a humane method to control the donkey populations on Salt Cay. The Donkey Santuary of the United Kingdom has visited Salt Cay to assess the donkey overpopulation situation as recently as 2009.
The goal of the project in March 2014 was to castrate some of the male donkeys to help keep the overall numbers down in future and to deworm all the donkeys and treat individual health problems if needed. The hope was to decrease the suffering of the donkeys on Salt Cay by controlling their population and to show the residents of Salt Cay that someone cares about the welfare of their donkeys. The hope is that this will be a first step towards a more comprehensive wellness program for the donkeys of Salt Cay.