Since June 2012, the former donkey sanctuary located at Blue Hill has been renamed the donkey home, where a new shelter is being built. Jodie Mills, Darwin Project Manager remarked, "We decided that it wasn't so much of a sanctuary up there because it's so wet and miserable for them." She has been working with the SPCA on the donkey home for the past year and a half and in June this year, the donkey home became its own separate charity.
The work is being carried out by Basil Read, Jodie explained, "when they have got time available and on weekends. A baby donkey was born on 2 May and we named him Basil after Basil Read. I rung them and said 'we have named the donkey after you, would you like to help us build a shelter for him?' They have been absolutely brilliant and said if they had any spare materials or left over things, they would use those to build the shelter." The shelter is near completion stage, Jodie explained, "the roof went on Friday and now they are just tidying up, and putting some fencing around."
When asking the difference between the home now, Jodie replied "I think we are much more involved these days, I check them everyday, sometimes twice a day. We brought rugs for them, so they all have little coats. We do regular donkey walks, we get people coming on a Wednesday at 4:30pm and Saturday at 10:00am depending on the weather. They are normally quite popular, we get kiddies to come and ride the donkeys as well." The physical appearance of the home is not that different explained Jodie, as there was a previous temporary shelter, the major difference is the condition of the donkeys. "When I first arrived, there were only two donkeys that would have a head collar put on, we have managed to tame them and now as soon as you call them,they all come running over," said Jodie.
What is the benefit of this new donkey home? "Because it's so wet there, most of the time the donkeys' hooves are suffering quite a lot. They get seedy toe and thrush, which is where basically inside the hooves are starting to rot away ... they are much more suited to Horse Pasture, where we have got some of the wild donkeys. Really it is much too wet for them, so having the shelter will have a hard concrete surface for them to stand on. There will also be a couple of stables there for any sick donkeys or for any of the older ones. Hopefully when we have got a couple of foals on the way, then the mums and babies can stay in there as well."
Jodie's next move is to raise funds for the shelter, although Basil Read has provided and built most of it, money still needs to be raised for the stables and wood cladding. A donkey adoption scheme is also in place for the cost of £20 a year, which aids in buying food and medicines for them. The donkeys are also carrying out work for the Darwin Project run by the National Trust, "We get the donkeys helping us to carry our endemic plants up to high peak," continuing Jodie explained, "It is really lovely, especially for our apprentices to be involved with the donkeys and plus using them traditionally, as they have always been used on the island, to help carry things for people."
This news item was published in The Sentinel, 29 November 2012