The Donkey Sanctuary's first ever Bioblitz event took place as part of the charity’s 50th anniversary celebrations, with 548 species being discovered by an enthusiastic team of volunteers.

Staff and volunteers at The Donkey Sanctuary have carried out their first ever 'Bioblitz' event, taking stock of the diverse environment that hundreds of rescued donkeys call home.

The charity welcomed local ecology experts to join in with the 24-hour monitoring event which was launched as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations.

A band of enthusiastic participants scrambled through hedges, arranged moth traps, dipped ponds and rummaged through donkey droppings, totting up as many as 548 different species along the way.

“Species-rich habitats may improve the welfare and wellbeing of donkeys and mules by providing them with opportunities to express a range of foraging and social behaviours,” says Helen Cavilla, Wildlife and Conservation Officer. “The number of species can give us an indication of the quality of the habitats which provide homes to both wildlife and our resident herds."

Wild pollinators such as bumblebees, solitary bees, hoverflies, wasps, butterflies and moths are incredibly important as they ensure the propagation of a wide range of herbs, shrubs and plants which the sanctuary’s herds can forage on.

The donkeys themselves play their part too; a number of solitary bee species have made nest holes in the bare ground created by donkey hooves, their dung provides food for beetles and nutrients for the soil, and they have even lent their name to the striking pink flower sainfoin, or Onobrychis, which means ‘devoured by donkeys’.

Among the interesting species discovered on the day of action was the nationally-scarce spiny mason wasp, a pea mussel, a lime hawk moth and an interesting assortment of bats, including the UK’s rarer species, the Greater Horseshoe Bat.

Discover a variety of wildlife at The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth. Devon, including many different species of bat.
Hoverfly on Oxeye daisy
Leopard Moth
A selection of the wildlife surrounding our sanctuary.

More than 100 species of moth were identified as well as other invertebrates such as bees, butterflies, scarab beetles and a hairy thistle weevil. The final species list included a Tumbling Flower Beetle, Anaspis thoracica, which is classed as ‘Nationally Scarce’, with only two other known sites in Devon.

Hedgehog and dormice footprint tunnels, trail cameras, bat detectors and wine ropes for moths were a just a handful of the tools used to find some of the sanctuary’s more elusive visitors.

Similar events also took place across the organisation’s farms, centres and European sanctuaries to get a detailed picture of what the environment looks like for the thousands of donkeys and mules in the charity’s care.

Ruth Angell, Wildlife and Conservation Manager, added: “This is the first time there has been a Bioblitz here at the sanctuary and we are really pleased with how it went.

“It’s so important for our donkeys and mules to experience a healthy environment and diverse habitats, to support their welfare and wellbeing long into the future. We are really grateful to everyone who joined us on the surveys and shared their fantastic knowledge and enthusiasm with us.”

Want to play a role in boosting our donkeys’ environment?