Karachi donkeys play vital role

Brooke Pakistan’s research team investigated the little-known but vital role donkeys play in helping solve the city’s waste problem.

Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, has a severe problem with waste disposal. Its population of over 24 million produces 12,000 tons of solid waste every day but, like many large cities, social and economic challenges mean services don't always run efficiently. Currently, only 40% of this waste is removed by local authorities, leaving people and their donkeys with the huge task of removing the rest.

Despite this heroic work, local government and Pakistan policy makers have yet to recognise the critical role these donkeys play in the community. This means neither the animals nor their owners receive any resources or support. Our research aimed to assess local people's perceptions, as well as the health and welfare of donkeys used during waste management in Pakistan.

What our research involved

To understand the role donkeys play in this work and discover the challenges faced by community members, Brooke Pakistan’s research team visited the Jamali Goth neighborhood.

The team interviewed donkey owners, community members who employ owners and their donkeys to remove the waste, and the vets and paravets who work in the community with the animals.

Brooke also assessed the health and well-being of over 200 donkeys using our Standardised Equine Based Welfare Assessment Tool (SEBWAT).

Any donkeys found needing provisions such as water, shelter or emergency care were treated immediately by Brooke staff.

What we discovered

The use of cart donkeys for waste management provides many livelihood opportunities; donkey owners and their families are hugely dependant on their animals. However, these animals can face serious welfare issues.

Vets and paravets reported that cart donkeys suffer serious health problems such as lameness, wounds, diarrhoea and colic. After assessing over 200 donkeys, the welfare assessment team also found problems like eye infections, lesions, muzzle mutilations and lameness.

It’s a hard job for owners too. They travel long distances every day with their donkeys to collect waste. Many face problems such as police extortion, and the physically demanding nature of the job, low wages and animal diseases also take their toll.


When asked what would happen if their donkey died, 84% of owners said they would have to borrow money to buy another donkey or face starvation as they have no other way of earning a living.

When asked what would happen if their donkey died, 84% of owners said they would have to borrow money to buy another donkey or face starvation as they have no other way of earning a living.

Community members believed that if cart donkeys stopped visiting there would be a large build-up of waste, showing the community’s reliance on the donkeys and their owners to carry out this vital work.

What’s next?

As well as the obvious need to improve waste management systems, this project highlighted a need for provisions such as water, shelter and veterinary care for the donkeys.

Results from this project are now being used to publicise the vital role these donkeys have in managing the city’s waste, with the aim of getting resources and support.

Helping to ensure the health and welfare of cart donkeys helps ensure a clean Karachi, a healthy environment, and happy and thriving equine dependent communities

Syed Zahir Ali Shah, Senior Researcher, Brooke Pakistan

Donkey in Pakistan

See also

We train animal health professionals such as government and private vets, paravets and community animal health workers.

We've been working in Pakistan since 1991.