Donkeys in Sidmouth are going on an autumnal adventure after their grazing enclosure was temporarily extended to include a wild valley.
Some 40 animals from international animal welfare charity The Donkey Sanctuary will be allowed to roam freely across part of the site, in an area that includes hillside, woods and fields.
The donkeys will roam the area for six weeks and it is hoped that by grazing the field in a more natural way they may help to increase the biodiversity of the grassland.
This in turn helps the animals by giving them a varied diet, an enriching environment to explore, exercise, and freedom to discover.
The new area starts with a track which runs through woodland, and then out into open pasture down the Weston valley.
Visitors will still have a good chance of seeing the donkeys by following a designated viewing track and have the opportunity to spot them showing more natural behaviour.
Maxine Carter, Slade House Farm Manager at The Donkey Sanctuary, said: “We are very excited about this latest trial. Our donkeys from New Barn at Slade House Farm will have the choice to explore the fields further down the valley.
“The donkeys will have access to fields with a variety of grasses, with shade and shelter provided by the trees and hedge line.
“They can choose what they wish to eat, roaming and grazing as they meander down the valley, and will have access to their barn at all times, where fresh water and straw will be available.
“The donkeys will be health checked, weighed and assessed, to make sure they are fit enough to undertake the steep hills they will be grazing.
“Our teams will be on hand every day to monitor our donkeys, watch them graze and make sure they are all happy in their new environment.”
The sanctuary’s wildlife and conservation team has identified that the vegetation in the new areas consist of mixed native species of grasses and flowering plants.
These are relatively low in sugars, high in fibre, and more suitable to a donkey’s low-energy requirements.
The Freedom to Roam trial is the second in a project that first took place in the spring. Staff at the charity will closely monitor the donkeys to see how they respond to the new opportunity.