Donkeys Kelley and Paddy have taken part in an innovative conservation scheme to help encourage the growth of wildflowers at our Sidmouth headquarters.

As part of their routine training and exercise, a pair of rescued donkeys have been led through a wildflower meadow in Sidmouth to help encourage biodiversity.

As they walk, their disturbance helps to spread seeds from wildflowers. Their footfall also helps to fix plant seeds into the soil, helping to create a vibrant meadow for next year.

The meadow is home to wildflowers such as common knapweed, bee orchid, ox-eye daisy, bird’s-foot trefoil and yellow rattle.

When in full bloom, the wildflower meadow attracts pollinating insects such as the common carder bee, hoverflies and butterflies like the small skipper and common blue.

Healthy wildflower meadows are home to many species and provide a massive benefit to a wide range of insects, including pollinators and, in turn, the wildlife that feeds upon them.

Insects are essential food for threatened farmland birds such as skylarks and linnets and bats like the brown long-eared bat, common pipistrelle and serotine bat.

Ecology and Conservation manager Ruth Angell says: “Wildflower meadows are one of several types of habitat that we are trying to improve here at the sanctuary.

“As part of our conservation work, we are exploring ways in which donkeys can help us manage habitats and in turn benefit from living in an enriched environment.”

The donkeys benefit from the experience of walking through new areas. Our animal behaviourist Ben Hart explains: “Donkeys evolved to walk long distances searching for food.

“Walking more and exploring new environments while helping to reseed the wildflower meadow creates opportunities to meet the donkeys’ natural needs, which in turn helps to improve their physical and mental wellbeing.”

Biodiversity is essential for supporting life and natural processes that make our environment more resilient, and we increasingly involve donkeys from our resident herd when carrying out conservation tasks.