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From Pain In The Ass Herd To Farm Calendar Pin-Up, A Blind Donkey's Holiday Tale

Noldi, an eight-month-old domesticated ass, was born blind on a Swiss farm, and was never accepted by his herd, as he struggled to avoid running into obstacles. Farmers considered putting him down, until an outcry from animal rights groups led to a happy

Gut Aiderbichl is an Austrian sanctuary for animals, including 50 donkeys.
Gut Aiderbichl is an Austrian sanctuary for animals, including 50 donkeys.
Beatrice Zogg

ZURICH - A blind donkey named Noldi is the September 2012 "pin-up" on the new calendar just issued by Gut Aiderbichl, an Austrian animal sanctuary. It is the storybook ending after a near-death experience for the troubled ass, whose cause had been championed by a number of animal conservationists.

The eight-month-old animal had been born blind on the farm of Wagerenhof, a home for the disabled in Uster, Zurich. He was never accepted by the herd and, according to the head of the home Luzius Voigt, was even picked on by the other donkeys. An additional problem was that because he couldn't see, he couldn't recognize obstacles and would run into them. "It irritated and frightened him, and he would take it out by being aggressive," said Voigt.

So home management had two options: look for another place for him to go; or put Noldi down if no suitable place could be found. When word spread that he might be euthanized, the Wagerenhof head received hundreds of e-mails from outraged animal conservationists.

Thanks to a tip he received from a member of the public, Voigt contacted the Gut Aiderbichl animal sanctuary in Henndorf, near Salzburg, Austria. There, on what was formerly a farm, many old animals live out their days. There are also handicapped animals, including a number of blind horses and donkeys. By the end of January, the deal was done, and Noldi left Switzerland for Austria. At his new home he has a padded stall, and a paddock designed especially for blind animals.

"Noldi has assimilated well here and feels at home," says Gut Aiderbichl press spokeswoman Britta Freitag.

He has also made a good friend, a sighted donkey named Mario. Says Freitag: "Mario can see, and he took Noldi under his wing and showed him the whole sanctuary." Indeed, now if you flip to the month of September in the farm's new 2012 calendar, you will see the two new donkey buddies pictured together.

Read the original article in German

Photo - Gut Aiderbichl

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Society

In Northern Kenya, Where Climate Change Is Measured In Starving Children

The worst drought in 40 years, which has deepened from the effects of climate change, is hitting the young the hardest around the Horn of Africa. A close-up look at the victims, and attempts to save lives and limit lasting effects on an already fragile region in Kenya.

Photo of five mothers holding their malnourished children

At feeding time, nurses and aides encourage mothers to socialize their children and stimulate them to eat.

Georgina Gustin

KAKUMA — The words "Stabilization Ward" are painted in uneven black letters above the entrance, but everyone in this massive refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, calls it ya maziwa: The place of milk.

Rescue workers and doctors, mothers and fathers, have carried hundreds of starving children through the doors of this one-room hospital wing, which is sometimes so crowded that babies and toddlers have to share beds. A pediatric unit is only a few steps away, but malnourished children don’t go there. They need special care, and even that doesn’t always save them.

In an office of the International Rescue Committee nearby, Vincent Opinya sits behind a desk with figures on dry-erase boards and a map of the camp on the walls around him. “We’ve lost 45 children this year due to malnutrition,” he says, juggling emergencies, phone calls, and texts. “We’re seeing a significant increase in malnutrition cases as a result of the drought — the worst we’ve faced in 40 years.”

From January to June, the ward experienced an 800 percent rise in admissions of children under 5 who needed treatment for malnourishment — a surge that aid groups blame mostly on a climate change-fueled drought that has turned the region into a parched barren.

Opinya, the nutrition manager for the IRC here, has had to rattle off these statistics many times, but the reality of the numbers is starting to crack his professional armor. “It’s a very sad situation,” he says, wearily. And he believes it will only get worse. A third year of drought is likely on the way.

More children may die. But millions will survive malnutrition and hunger only to live through a compromised future, researchers say. The longer-term health effects of this drought — weakened immune systems, developmental problems — will persist for a generation or more, with consequences that will cascade into communities and societies for decades.

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