A FORMER solicitor who grew up in Bowness-on-Windermere now devotes himself to rescuing donkeys in Morocco.

Charles Hantom, 77, set up the Jarjeer Mule and Donkey Refuge, situated 24km south of Marrakech, with wife Susan six years ago.

Knowing that they did not want to remain in the UK following retirement, the couple made the decision to move to Morocco.

“We love the people, we love the culture and this is where we felt we wanted to be,” said Mrs Hantom, 74, who first visited the country with the hippies in 1962. “It’s a very magical and healing place.”

The dedicated pair and their staff now care for 90 equines at the refuge, which was conceived after they were asked to take a donkey in from SPANA; a charity which works to improve the welfare of animals in the world’s poorest communities.

The donkey, an orphan, was becoming more difficult as it got older but, said Mrs Hantom, she and her husband “loved a challenge”.

They decided to commit themselves to looking after donkeys in need of long-term homes following their working lives, or after injury or disability. The animals at Jarjeer remain there for the rest of their lives.

Mr Hantom, who spent his childhood in Bowness, talked about the dreadful condition of many donkeys who arrive at the refuge.

“We have several who have broken limbs and are in an emaciated condition because of neglect,” he said. “You’re giving them hope, and we have seen miracles worked.

“I can’t put that down to myself - it’s this wonderful team we have here.”

Mrs Hantom, from Liverpool, described donkeys as “highly intelligent,” adding: “Once they get to know you, they are extremely affectionate.

“What gives us the greatest pleasure is bringing a rescue donkey here and seeing it become a donkey again by learning to socialise and mix with other donkeys, and make friends with its own kind.”

According to the couple, all of the staff at the refuge are Moroccan and Muslim, and see themselves as doing Allah’s work.

The pair added this was very important to recognise in a world “where we so often experience Islamophobia and sometimes fail to understand the meaning of true Islam.”

Jarjeer also has a small hospital and clinical area while Mohammed, the manager, undertakes outreach work in the surrounding villages. The refuge is open daily to to the public and, via the media, has attracted visitors from all over the globe.

Earlier this year, it received a visit from Ade Adepitan for the BBC’s Travel Show.