Here in Birmingham, our staff have been pleased with the results from trialling a new type of enrichment with the 21 donkeys who live at the Centre in Sutton Park. The donkeys were given paprika, scattered around the field, to smell and sniff – resulting in a host of positive behaviours. In order to find out what other new and interesting scents pique the donkeys’ interest, the staff having been trying the same technique with a variety of other herbs and spices… and the results were interesting indeed!
After discussion with the knowledgeable team at the Sanctuary’s research team, we decided to try herbs such as oregano, sage, parsley, thyme, marjoram, coriander, rosemary and basil. The herbs were lightly scattered on the ground across the field, ensuring enough distance between each scatter. The aim was to find out which smells kept the donkeys interested for the longest. The key aim is to find forms of sensory enrichment that stimulates the donkeys, encourages wild-type behaviours and reduces aggression occasionally associated with food enrichment.
The donkeys were interested in all of the herbs, with rosemary, thyme, basil and coriander coming out on top for Birmingham’s herd. The donkeys went from patch to patch, sniffing, rolling, nuzzling and interacting with each other. It was lovely to watch the donkeys sniffing at each other’s noses, trying to find out whether their friend had visited a herb that they hadn’t yet discovered. Not only did every donkey become interested, the length of time that the donkeys interacted with the herbs was significant – with some donkeys still sniffing the ground and hour or more later.
Discovering ways to enrich our donkeys’ lives is gratifying, but one of the best consequences of the enrichment sessions, discussions and blogs has been the interest it has generated with our other centres, welfare teams and foster owners. The team at Birmingham will keep spreading the word that it’s no big dill, to keep a donkeys life peppered with happiness and enrichment, all you need is thyme an imagination!