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Donkey foal without a mother makes his way in the world with new-found friends

A rejected donkey foal who faced a “race against the clock” for survival is thriving with his new adopted family.

The Donkey Sanctuary Ireland received a call from a concerned owner last summer after his jenny Snowball rejected her foal Bugsy.

A spokesman for the charity said welfare adviser Jane Bruce, who had visited previously on routine check-ups, realised it would be a “race against the clock” to ensure the foal’s survival after he was born in the early hours but by midday had not been allowed to suckle.

“I remembered the little mare from before as she was nervous to catch and handle so I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy task,” said Jane, who arrived to find the jenny kicking out at Bugsy and knocking him to the ground.

The spokesman said Jane successfully managed to calm Snowball enough for Bugsy to suckle and receive life-saving colostrum – but despite this his condition began to deteriorate.

“The little foal was becoming confused at having the opportunity to drink and then being roughly pushed away,” she said.

“I knew the best opportunity the foal had for survival was a good few hours away and a journey of 250 miles.”

A driver from the Donkey Sanctuary collected Snowball and Bugsy and took them to the charity’s new arrivals unit.

“In spite of everyone’s best efforts to unite the pair Snowball’s rejection of her foal was lasting. At best she would ignore little Bugsy, and at worse she would continue to lash out at him,” said the spokesman.

“With no mother to suckle from, Bugsy was given an ingenious way to get his milk via an automated feeder that encouraged his natural suckling instincts.”

The spokesman said after Snowball returned to her owner, Bugsy was left to make his way in the world without a mother.

“Thankfully he found himself a new best friend and a motherly figure to guide him in Cherry,” he said.

“Cherry was one of 14 donkeys rescued from miserable conditions on a remote County Cork farm. Having given birth to foal Roy from the safety of the sanctuary, our staff had a feeling this mare and foal pair could be just the two donkeys to lead Bugsy by example”.

The spokesman added Bugsy, Cherry and Roy became “fast friends”, graduating from the new arrivals unit to Hannigan’s Farm, where Bugsy is almost unrecognisable.

Bugsy at the Donkey Sanctuary’s Hannigan Farm

“Bugsy is very independent,” said groom Marian O’Callaghan. “While he is great friends with Roy and will follow him about, he is confident in himself and holds his own.

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“Bugsy is fed in the morning with the mares and has no problem establishing his place at the trough.”

The spokesman added the future is looking bright for Bugsy, Roy and Cherry in spite of the obstacles they have had to overcome.

“Thankfully we were able to reach out to Bugsy at a critical stage in his early life,” she said.

“The swift intervention of the team literally determined whether he would survive or not. With round-the-clock care and attention he has thrived into a healthy and balanced foal.”

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