The primary aim of The Donkey Sanctuary on the Isle of Wight is to provide a home for unwanted donkeys. The sanctuary usually has over a hundred animals in their care, about ninety donkeys and twenty-five horses and ponies, all needing a home for various reasons. Loss of grazing, owners situations change, rescue from poor circumstances or simply found abandoned, the donkeys find a new life in the charity’s sixty acres of beautiful countryside. But they still work for their living. The donkeys will often be found enjoying attending a school fair or fete or visiting children’s centres. They have a particular role working with special schools where some of the students’ needs can be met by the interaction and communication with the animals.
Caring for the animals involves a lot of work – a donkey will eat a bale of hay a day as a supplement and indoor stables, barns and field shelters have to be tended; then there’s fencing to be done and the onerous task of poo collecting. At the beginning of 2017 the decision was made for the Sanctuary to purchase a Polaris Ranger Diesel UTV to take on all the day-to-day tasks previously carried out by staff using barrows and body power to carry feed and maintain the Sanctuary. The Ranger was supplied by C & O Tractors of Newport who also provided training.
“I don’t know what we did without the Polaris,” says Derek Needham, Charity Manager, “it’s in constant use to do everything from maintenance to moving feed and carrying fence posts to towing a poo cleaner in paddocks. We’ve worked it in all conditions, heavy and wet and it takes on everything, putting smiles on faces by cutting down on hours of work while protecting people from the weather. It’s so flexible and very popular with the girls who say it’s ‘female friendly’. It certainly frees people up to work with the public and the animals.”
The main site is an education centre and learning resource for schools across the island and those visiting from other parts of the UK. There’s a range of educational activities including sessions called ‘classroom in a stable’ with ‘hands on’ practical work combined with looking at the role donkeys have played on the island and the mainland. Less formal visits are available so children can enjoy activities such as ‘treasure Hunting’ and ‘Donkey Spotting. The Polaris Ranger is also so popular with the children The Donkey Sanctuary will soon be running a competition to characterise it and give it a name.