A donkey has drowned in a bog after being abandoned on land near Coalisland, Co Tyrone.
But four other donkeys who were also abandoned on the same stretch of land have been rescued.
Staff at The Donkey Sanctuary charity were called in last Thursday after the animals were discovered by the owner of the land.
Allen Andrews, The Donkey Sanctuary's regional welfare officer responsible for Northern Ireland, said that two mares, along with a stallion and a young foal, were successfully rescued from the bog.
A fifth donkey was found dead and is believed to have drowned after falling into a drainage ditch.
Mr Andrews described the discovery of the dead animal as “harrowing”.
“I think the donkey had died about 24 hours before we discovered it,” he said.
He believes the animals had been abandoned four weeks previously.
Mr Andrews was part of a five-member team which took part in the rescue of the surviving donkeys.
“The donkey died tragically in what must have been a terrifying death and all the surviving donkeys have painfully long hooves and are terribly thin,” he said.
“The only food available to the donkeys was the boggy grass which hid the drainage ditches full of water in which their companion had drowned.”
He said the four surviving donkeys were left traumatised by the incident, but are now safe in the rescue centre in Strabane.
Mr Allen said that cases of donkeys being abandoned is rising.
“The problem is the value of donkeys and horses has dropped,” he said. “They cost a lot to care for — to feed and to care for their hooves, and rather than spend the money or ask for help, they are being dumped on the roads and in fields.”
Free advice for anyone experiencing difficulties in caring for their donkeys is available from Mr Andrews who can be contacted on 07717 814946.
All of the donkeys taken in now have a sanctuary for life with The Donkey Sanctuary. For more information call 01392 578222 or visit www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk.