- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 6, 2006

Donkeys in Namibia are going to receive a special Easter treat. About 500 of them will have yellow reflectors attached to their ears to cut down on the high incidence of car crashes involving donkeys sleeping on the roads at night.

The donkeys, which play a fundamental role in the lives of Namibian families, are responsible for about one-quarter of all traffic accidents in the country, according to the organization Donkey Welfare of Namibia (donkeywelfare.com), founded by two Britons last year.

The animals’ sleeping habits are largely to blame, said Peter Collingwood, a retired advertising agent and a co-founder of the group.

“Donkeys like to lie down on the road at night because the tarmac is warmer than the earth around them,” Mr. Collingwood said, but they are the same color as the road and often fail to wake up when a car approaches.

Donkey Welfare Namibia has developed the yellow ear tags to reflect the headlights of coming vehicles, which will help drivers spot and avoid the donkeys at night.

Namibia’s Motor Vehicle Accident Fund has joined the project in hopes of reducing the human toll from such accidents, which kill about 90 people a year, Mr. Collingwood said. The organizations have set a goal of tagging the first 500 donkeys by Easter.

The country has about 200,000 working and wild donkeys, most of which are used for plowing, transportation and fetching water. The death of a donkey can be financially devastating to its owner.

A South African company has produced 1,000 of the tags at a cost of $6 apiece, permitting the 500 donkeys to be tagged on both ears. Mr. Collingwood said his organization is raising funds in hopes of tagging all the donkeys in Namibia, and might expand the project to other countries, such as Botswana.

Russell Hay, the other co-founder of Donkey Welfare, had a personal encounter with a donkey on the road at night.

“I was able to swerve and miss a donkey on a lonely stretch of road in northern Namibia. Unfortunately, the truck behind me was not so lucky and hit the poor donkey,” Mr. Hay said in a press release.

Kelly O’Meara, program director of the Humane Society International in Washington, said similar reflectors have been mounted on the ears of elephants in some parts of India.

“If you travel internationally, it’s amazing to see people drive their cars in and out of horses, donkeys, camels, elephants — you name it,” Mrs. O’Meara said.

“Where you have a large number of animals that are used by farmers and poor workers for a variety of things, but are walking the same roadways with increasing numbers of cars … collisions are very likely to happen.”

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