Sixty donkeys on the Caribbean island of Grand Turk will be castrated this week having been saved from slaughter.

Vet Dr Andrew Trawford, director of veterinary services at the Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth, Devon has flown to Grand Turk, the seat of government of the Turk and Caico islands, and will carry out the mass operation in order to save the donkeys from possible death by drowning.

A spokesperson for the sanctuary said: “We’d heard a rumour they were going to be taken out on a ship and thrown over board. The locals were getting fed up with them as they were becoming a pest. This is a big project for us.”

The donkeys have become feral since the demise of the salt making industry which dates back to the 17th century. The donkeys were the main form of transport on the island, which is only 6 miles long and one mile wide with a population of just under 4,000 people.

Dr Trawford said: “I have visited the islands twice before and have been in communication with officials since last summer. This breakthrough is an absolute triumph of persistence.”

The sanctuary will continue to play a crucial role in controlling the donkey population and securing their futures.

Dr Trawford added: “The indiscriminate breeding, including incestuous behaviour within confined areas on Grand Turk and South Caicos is of great concern and must be addressed as a priority.”