Thistle while they work! – Sidmouth donkeys encourage the growth of wildflowers

These photos show how donkeys at Sidmouth have been involved in a conservation project to encourage the growth of wildflowers.

Rescued Paddy and Kelley, living at The Donkey Sanctuary, are regularly walked by staff through a wildflower meadow at the charity’s headquarters in a bid to spread seeds and stamp them into the ground to grow.

The animal sanctuary hopes the project will encourage the growth of a new wildflower meadow next year.

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Grooms Olivia Sancey are pictured here with Kelley (dark donkey) and Maya Willis with Paddy (lighter grey donkey).
Photos: The Donkey Sanctuary.

Ben Hart, animal behaviourist at the sanctuary, said: “Donkeys evolved to walk long distances searching for food.

“Walking more and exploring new environments while helping to re-seed the wild flower meadow creates opportunities to meet the donkeys’ natural needs, which in turn helps to improve their physical and mental wellbeing.”

The donkeys have been walked through the meadow of wildflowers species, such as common knapweed, bee orchid, ox-eye daisy, bird’s-foot trefoil and yellow rattle.

Ruth Angell, ecology and conservation manager, said: “Wildflower meadows are one of several types of habitat which we are trying to improve here at the sanctuary.

“As part of our conservation work, we are exploring ways in which donkeys can help us manage habitats, and in turn benefit from living in an enriched environment.

“Biodiversity is essential for supporting life and natural processes which make our environment more resilient.”


Wildflower meadow in bloom at The Donkey Sanctuary.
Photo: The Donkey Sanctuary.

For the last three years, donkeys from the Sidmouth herd have grazed species-rich grassland in the sanctuary’s Weston valley.

This summer donkeys grazed another wildflower meadow at Sidmouth.

The charity said the meadow was on-track to be improved by the natural grazing of the donkeys.

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