The Tonteldoos taxi industry recently received a wonderful injection when state veterinarian, Dr Marietjie Malan, ‘adopted’ the donkeys and their cart riders – and initiated the Tonteldoos Donkey Project.
Brand new donkey carts were presented to four families, sponsored and built by Dullstroom’s Pam Golding Properties and Lydenburg’s Spring & General, Kruger Construction and R & P Panelbeaters and tow-in services.
Assisted by local farmers, Hendrik and René Naude, and journalist Anne-Lize van Vuuren, Malan and her ferrier husband, Jako de Klerk, actively embarked on a campaign to both improve the lot of the donkeys and their owners, and to educate the local population about animal care.
Tonteldoos, often referred to as ‘Dullstroom’s country sister’, has just one small general dealer.
For most of the local farm labourers, donkey carts are the only means of daily transport.
The cart riders are mostly small children, while the donkeys are often old and vulnerable.
The first step was to win the cart owners’ trust and confidence.
Dr Malan arrived with medication to treat the animals, while her husband repaired harnesses and replaced the chafing nylon rope and wire used for bits and bridles.
Their regular visits paid off and soon the youngsters started signing up for the programme, replacing older donkeys with younger, stronger ones, and learning how to care for them.
The next step was to improve the donkey carts.
Businesses in Lydenburg and Dullstroom were approached to sponsor brand new, lightweight carts to replace the makeshift, heavy and dysfunctional models.
Early in June the first four 2012 models were released to deserving owners at an open day held at the Naude’s farm in Tonteldoos.
From far and wide, they came – youngsters and their gogos and mkhulus(grannies and grandpas), their donkeys still steered with rope and wire.
Each animal checked in for a medical, while chafing harnesses, bits and bridles were fixed or replaced.
And then came the surprise – brand new carts for four families, sponsored and built by Dullstroom’s Pam Golding Properties and Lydenburg’s Spring & General, Kruger Construction and R & P Panelbeaters and tow-in services.
The positive response to the project has been overwhelming.
And this is only the beginning, says Dr Malan, who will carry on with care and educational visits to Tonteldoos.
“We plan to introduce the bigger Spanish donkey from Ermelo to breed a stronger donkey, which is more suited for the job.”
A Spring Donkey Derby is scheduled for September and hopefully, more carts will be replaced by new models.
Cart owners are encouraged to stay in touch with their jockeys.
And who knows, by next year Easter, at the annual Tonteldoos Country Festival, a donkey cart race of note could become a new item on the agenda.