EARS Donkey Sanctuary

22nd Jan, 2024

Written, and photographs supplied by Marketing Manager, Toni Younghusband

Professional photography by elysian

A slice of heaven for working donkeys

The small rural town of Greyton, some 140km from Cape Town’s city centre, is renowned for its breathtaking mountain range, abundant water and rolling farmland and tucked into a valley on the western edge of town, a slice of equine heaven.

EARS Donkey Sanctuary is home to a fluid number of rescues – donkeys and horses – who either live out their lives here or are adopted out into new, safe and loving homes.

It all started by accident about 10 years ago,” says EARS’ founder Joanne Sedgwick who ran riding stables from her family’s farm and was well known in the area for her love of equines. A donkey owner whose animal had been severely injured by an angry neighbour appeared at Jo’s door asking for help. His working donkey Genevieve had been hit on the head with an iron bar for stealing vegetables. She sustained severe eye and ear injuries which left her partially deaf and temporarily blind. Because she couldn’t work any longer, her owner relinquished her to Jo and that’s how the Sanctuary began.

Genevieve is white with a dark spot on her face, much like a beauty spot, and she has a flirty nature; Sanctuary staff nicknamed her Marilyn. She was accompanied by her young son, Satchmo, who was later reclaimed by the owner but returned a year later, and he and his mama have lived side by side at the Sanctuary ever since.

They share a quiet paddock next to a stream with feisty Layla, found as a baby alone at the side of the road. It was suspected that Layla had been hit by a car as she suffered severe concussion and nerve damage and was unable to eat or drink. With the help of veterinarians and round-the-clock care at the Sanctuary her wounds healed but her emotional state remained poor. It was a bossy little Shetland pony named Jellytot with whom she shared her paddock that drew little Layla out of her shell, and she blossomed. These besties are inseparable; so much so that Layla has picked up a lot of naughty Shetland pony habits.

There are currently 16 Sanctuary residents, each with their own tale of heartbreak and heartache, but their futures are rosy, safe and secure. “We are committed to these animals for the rest of their lives,” says Jo. “That’s our promise.”

In addition to their donkey rescues, the Sanctuary also houses horses from time to time, belonging to impoverished owners from the five villages spanning the Greyton/Genadendal valley and brought in for medical treatment and recuperation. This region of the Overberg is home to more than 400 horses, the majority of whom are free-ranging and frequently injured on fencing, in fights with each other, hit by cars or bitten by dogs, and it’s the EARS team that helps them heal or, in the worst-case scenario, calls in veterinary assistance to euthanise.

Diminutive Sanctuary Manager Penny James spent 17 years working in racing stables and her knowledge of horses and her love for these sensitive creatures means she’s in constant demand, driving between villages in her small white bakkie loaded with emergency medical equipment. Sanctuary assistants Shannon and Monray Zietsman and Therdon Duminy provide essential support and backup with difficult horses and sometimes aggressive owners.

The Sanctuary also offers free dipping and deworming clinics and will geld (sterilise) as many horses as it can, and as owners allow. Gelding is a top priority for EARS but it’s an expensive procedure and as an NPO, funding is limited.

Greyton is a popular tourist destination and visitors absolutely love our free-ranging horses, but to keep them healthy and happy takes huge resources,” says volunteer marketing manager Toni Younghusband. “We host as many fundraising events as our tiny team of volunteers can manage, but it’s an uphill battle.” A violent storm put further strain on the Sanctuary’s finances in Spring when a massive storm destroyed several of its paddocks. “The cost of building new paddocks is going to be huge, but it has to be high on our agenda,” says Penny. “The donkeys are finding it very easy to walk under or push through the fences in their temporary shelters. It’s causing mayhem.”

Visitors to Greyton are welcome to spend time with our donkeys and tours of the Sanctuary are free. Booking is essential. Call Penny on 082 660 6714.


EARS Donkey Sanctuary
Account number:   9309869152

For more information about EARS Donkey Sanctuary, call Penny James on 082 660 6714 or Toni Younghusband on 083 493 8650, email info@greytondonkeysanctuary.co.za, visit https://www.greytondonkeysanctuary.co.za or follow them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100064717564863

View images as Gallery | Carousel
FB: 0