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Save the Balearic Ass

Donkeys fight fires

balearic asses

Here's a story about everybody helping everybody and everybody gaining something. No, it's not the Brexit negotiations, it's a tale of the environment, sheep, and donkeys where we're all winners.

The story is set on the Ariant (near Pollensa) farm of The Mediterranean Wildlife Foundation (FVSM in Spanish) whose aim is the conservation of biodiversity in the Balearic Islands and the rest of the Mediterranean.

The Ariant Finca is a natural area with many trees, scrub-land and home to a flock of 200 sheep. The sheep spend their days grazing the area, keeping most of the vegetation trimmed which is a great help in preventing any fire which may start from spreading.

These days, more than ever, with climate change, longer, hotter, and drier summers the threat of fire is ever present and every measure available id being used to prevent it and stop its spread.

Unfortunately the sheep can't eat all of the scrub between the trees and so an efficient 'firewall' is not produced. To improve the situation the Foundation brought in a dozen donkeys who eat absolutely everything to clear up what the sheep had left and form a fire barrier between the trees.

The donkeys are the local autonomous Balearic Asses whose numbers experienced a sharp decline around the 70's when more 'modern' methods of farming and transportation were introduced, leaving only about 100 of them left!

Now, with the help of the foundation in schemes like this there are around 300 and their numbers are slowly but surely increasing. The donkeys change their grazing zones regularly to ensure 100% of the finca is fire protected and in doing so they also provide help to the sheep.

One of the most abundant plants on the finca is the carrizo reed (Ampelodesmus Mauritanica) which is too tough for the sheep to digest. However the donkeys love it and in chewing it down to the root, they promote the growth of lush soft shoots which the sheep wolf down.

So, there we are, people help donkeys help sheep help the land. Great stuff!