When a listener contacted BBC Radio 2 for its Three Word Monday feature with the message “Just purchased donkey”, it got Drivetime host Simon Mayo scratching his head as to where one might do such a thing.
Naturally, the first port of a call was to get on the telephone to The Donkey Sanctuary and get the low-down on all things donkey from the charity’s Head of Communications Dawn Vincent, granddaughter of The Donkey Sanctuary founder, Dr Elisabeth Svendsen.
Here is the conversation which was aired on the prime time show on Tuesday evening.
SM: How do you get hold of a donkey, how much for a donkey, then?
DV: Well they can fetch very little these days or they can fetch a few hundred pounds and it really depends on the breeds, but in some of the areas where we’re working in the UK and Ireland, over-breeding has been a real issue and it has made the value of donkeys drop considerably.
We are inundated with donkeys that are unwanted or abandoned because people aren’t able to sell them on or they can’t afford to look after them, so The Donkey Sanctuary is a charity that helps with these donkeys in need.
SM: So how many donkeys have you got in your care at the moment?
DV: Since my granny started the charity over 40 years ago, we’ve rescued over 18,000 donkeys and mules and we currently have over 5,000 in our care in our sanctuaries and rescue centres across the UK, Ireland and some parts of Europe.
SM: So might you say to some people, don’t buy one, if I come to your sanctuary can I get one there?
DV: Absolutely, we have a fantastic re-homing scheme and what we do is provide a lot of support and guidance, and of course we’ve been able to rehabilitate our donkeys and would benefit greatly from the one-to-one environment that a private home can offer them.
The Donkey Sanctuary is a charity that helps with these donkeys in need
SM: So what do I need, if I’m going to have the perfect home for a donkey, do I need lots of land?
DV: You need about an acre of land and you need a stable with a good hard-standing area and you need really good fencing because donkeys are great escape artists and generally we like to re-home donkeys in pairs because they love the companionship of their own kind.
SM: And are they stubborn, because that’s the reputation, or is that something that has grown up over the years and is completely wrong?
DV: I think it’s definitely a reputation but donkeys are highly intelligent animals and they always question why we are asking them to do something.
At the end of the day, the human race has domesticated these animals and when they lived in their natural habitat, they were able to defend their territories, and in the modern world, we ask them to get into a trailer box or enter a stable those might be unusual environments for them and they just question it and its us who find it puzzling when they don’t want to do something.
SM: And are there still donkey rides, is that still OK, is that still acceptable? Or what would donkeys be spending most of their time doing?
DV: Well in this country, donkeys are traditionally seen on the beach giving rides, and The Donkey Sanctuary plays a really important role in just ensuring that they’re happy in their work and working with owners to make sure they know the best welfare standards that would be suitable for the donkeys.
I know that donkeys in Blackpool for example have rest breaks and those kinds of things.
But the sad reality is, where we work all around the world, there are millions of donkeys, especially in Africa working all the hours that they do, and they have little rest, little shelter and that’s where The Donkey Sanctuary helps again with veterinary care and advice and support for owners.