The Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary cares for over 90 donkeys. They are looked after by a very small, dedicated team of staff who are supported by over 50 volunteers. The staff and volunteers ensure that the donkeys want for nothing and, even in the challenging winter months, they get the care and welfare that they deserve.
The winter challenges are many and contrasting! In recent years we have had very, very wet winters where our land has been flooded (by the Wroxall stream) and our donkeys have spent most of their time inside the barns. Donkeys hate the wet but are less worried by the cold so we ensure that they are kept dry and happy! They spend the winter living mainly on straw beds (or shavings beds for some with health issues) and eat hay, supplemented by a range of feeds for the special dietary requirements that many of the donkeys have. Living inside can create irritations in the donkey’s coats- caused by lying and rolling on straw all winter. There is a heavy burden of mucking out on the staff and volunteer team who have to be in early on freezing mornings to clear away mountains of overnight poo!
Our Old Age Pensioner donkeys, with slightly thinner coats, are well wrapped up with rugs for the winter, whilst our youngsters-who need lots of exercise and stimulus – race around the yards playing with a feed-ball or having a game of tug of war with a random wellie!
Throughout the winter months, whatever the weather our donkeys get their daily medicines and treatments which keep them well. Frosty and Murphy have COPD (a type of lung disease) and have their medicine and feed brought out to their stables. Jimbob, the ex Carisbrooke Castle donkey, has Cushing ’s disease with medication to help the condition. Blossom has a delicate stomach, Blakey has trouble with Sarcoids, Georgie has daily eye drops, Twiggy has cough medicine, Snowy has painkiller for joint pain… the list is endless!
Our costs in winter are of course very high. Visitors are few (although the sanctuary is open every day apart from Christmas Day and New Years Day) so we have to find ways of raising money to fund the donkeys keep. Fortunately the donkeys help!! From mid November to the end of December donkeys fulfil their role in the island community by taking part in a whole range of Christmas Activities. In 2019 they will be at school nativity plays, village and town Christmas Festivals (in Niton and Newport) at Garden Centres, at the Steam Railway and at crib services on Christmas Eve. They will be visiting Nursing Homes and Alzheimers centres (including on Christmas Day) and people sometimes make donations at these visits to help with their care.
The sanctuary also tries to help itself! We have a Christmas Market (on the 24th November). We run Carol Services (on the 14th and 15th December) and have a Christmas Songs concert on the 22nd December. On every Sunday in December Santa appears in a Stable with a donkey! At all these events visitors can use the cafe, buy gifts for Christmas in the sanctuary shop or, most importantly for the sanctuary, adopt a donkey (a great gift)!
Winters are hard on all animal sanctuaries but we work through it all, safe in the knowledge that the sun will soon be shining, our donkeys will be out in the fields and paddocks and our Easter visitors will return!
To support our donkeys please visit the sanctuary’s website, facebook page, on line shop etc., etc.
ISLANDER MAGAZINE Dec 2019