Crowds flock to meet miniature donkey Lorenzo
A CELEBRITY miniature donkey born last month helped a struggling animal sanctuary achieve a record number of visitors during the Easter break.
Wetheriggs Animal Rescue Centre, near Greta Bridge, battled to keep its doors open during successive coronavirus lockdowns, but limped by thanks to public support.
However, its fortunes changed with the birth of a rare Mediterranean miniature donkey named Lorenzo, just before the school holidays.
Centre operator Terry Bowes said the donkeys are more scarce than giant pandas.
After Lorenzo’s birth featured in an article in the Teesdale Mercury, Mr Bowes said: “The article went viral, then it was featured on television news.
“After that loads of people came in to see the little donkey.
“The weather was with us and we broke all records for gate receipts on Easter Sunday. On Monday again we beat it by a fiver.”
Mediterranean miniature donkeys, which originate from the islands of Sardina and Sicily, almost became extinct after the Second World War when they became a critical food source.
However, several were saved by serving American GIs who sent them back to the United States.
Lorenzo is part of a breeding programme at the shelter to conserve the breed.
Now Mr Bowes is hoping for a bumper summer season with more people being unable to holiday abroad due to difficulties in getting passports. The centre relies on its summer takings to tied it through the winter.
Mr Bowes paid tribute to people from Teesdale and surrounding areas since the shelter moved from Penrith to its current location at Thorpe Farm. He said: “They have been absolutely superb. I just love the area and I love the people. We have a large population of people with big hearts.”
Mr Bowes added that various parts of the shelter are being upgraded, after which it is hoped to stage a number of open days when people will have access to the centre’s more exotic animals.