Wildlife has thrived under lockdown at the international HQ of The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth while it remains shut to the public.
Paths, walkways and verges at the attraction – which normally welcomes 400,000 people a year – have become a riot of pinks, purples, blues and yellows.
Wildflowers have reaped the benefit of quieter conditions after the charity decided to temporarily close to visitors in March.
Grass-cutting along many of the access paths, verges and walkways has been reduced, allowing nature to bloom in its ‘wild spaces’.
The abundance of wildflowers – such as chamomile, ox-eye daisy, vetch, cornflower and poppy – has provided pollinating insects such as bees, moths and hoverflies with a spring and summertime boost.
There has also been a notable increase in a whole host of other insects.
This, in turn, has attracted more birds and bats who devour many of the biting insects that cause much irritation to the resident donkeys at this time of year.
More than 30 wildflower species were seen across the site in total when staff from The Donkey Sanctuary’s conservation and ecology team visited in mid-May.
Ecology and conservation manager Ruth Angell said: “The relaxed management of the grounds has meant wildflowers have been able to flower and seed and grasses have been left long enough for them to support the entire life cycles of a range of invertebrates.
“It has been really interesting for us to see how much wildlife and diversity our walkways can support following just a few months of less disturbance.
“We are now looking at ways to re-introduce management so that this can continue, and both wildlife and people can enjoy the benefits.”
The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth remains temporarily closed to visitors along with the charity’s other UK sites.
“The safety of visitors and staff is paramount, and with numerous entry points, it would be difficult to safely manage the number of people coming in and to encourage responsible social distancing,” said a spokesperson for the charity.
“The situation, however, is being constantly monitored on a local, regional and national level, and when it is safe to do so, the sanctuaries will be re-opened and visitors welcomed back.”
Dedicated grooms are still ensuring the resident donkeys and mules continue to receive the highest level of care.
Visitors can enjoy their own virtual live catch-up with the animals by logging onto the charity’s webcams.
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