Our wildlife and conservation team welcomed a group of nine volunteers from animal pharmaceutical company, Elanco, to help with habitat management at our main site in Sidmouth, Devon, as part of the Global Day of Service.

Global Day of Service is one of the largest single-day corporate volunteer programmes in the world. Thousands of Elanco employees join local partners and community groups to support a wide variety of initiatives. This year was their fifth time volunteering with The Donkey Sanctuary since 2015.

Rob Johns and Daniel Brown, conservation officers at The Donkey Sanctuary, worked with the volunteers during their visit, concentrating their efforts on two tasks throughout the morning – bulb planting and scything.

Elanco staff scything wildflower meadows in Devon
Elanco volunteers planting wildflower bulbs in hedgerows
Elanco volunteers stood in field with scythes

Planting wildflower bulbs among hedge banks will help not only to add a bit of colour to the site once the plants flower, but most importantly, they will provide a food source for a range of invertebrates early in the year when there can often be a shortage of pollen and nectar.

The scything took place in one of the wildflower meadows which is also home to our honey bee hive. The field has served the bees and wild insects well over the summer, with a variety of wildflowers providing pollen, but the field needs to be prepared now that winter is approaching. The long grass has to be removed, to stop nutrients from the field system rotting into the ground over the winter. By removing the grass we will help to provide ideal conditions to allow a more diverse range of wildflowers to thrive, this is great for insects which in turn support bat and bird life.

Daniel said: “We were using Austrian scythes which are a great tool for grass cutting because they’re lightweight, quiet, sustainable, don’t require fuel, and are very sociable - great for health and wellbeing. I taught the volunteers about correct posture, and how to sharpen and maintain the blades."

After spending the morning doing a fantastic job maintaining habitats, the Elanco team spent the afternoon helping some of our grooms with poo-picking (mucking out) the donkey fields. This is a task which needs to be carried out regularly where our donkeys graze, and is an important part of managing parasites in our herds. After the hard work was completed, the team were rewarded with plenty of donkey time, meeting the donkeys and watching them relax and play together at the end of the day.

Daniel added: “We are so grateful for the group’s help and support, and we’re glad that they chose our charity to carry out their Global Day of Service. We hope to see them again soon for their sixth volunteering day with us when we will of course be delighted to welcome them back to The Donkey Sanctuary.”

Find out more about our nature and conservation volunteer days