Donkey celebrities attract interest to Sidmouth Sanctuary

THERE have been 700 more hits on Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary website this weekend after it was featured on Ant and Dec s Saturday Night Takeaway show.

THERE have been 700 more hits on Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary website this weekend after it was featured on Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway show.

And five of its donkeys, Springy, Shirgar, Dixie, Connor and Daragh have become overnight celebrities after appearing on the live TV show.

Ant and Dec, with help from team-mates, learnt 100 donkeys' names during a visit to the Sanctuary, before meeting the five they had to identify in the Thames-side studio.

Ant's team, made up of comedian Brian Conley, Liz McClarnon of Atomic Kitten, TV presenter Jonathan Wilkes and Yvette Fielding of Most Haunted, excelled at the challenge.

Maxine Carter, Slade Farm manager, who was among staff to accompany the donkeys, went into the studio ahead of Daragh, holding his name rosette.

"You could hear a pin drop," said Maxine. "The audience had been asked to be quiet."

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Everything was done to ensure the donkeys were not stressed by their TV appearance; although one did refuse to walk onto the stage, and cardboard cutouts were used for the dress rehearsal.

Vet Sophie Catling declared the donkeys, who regularly visit schools, fit to travel and accompanied them.

Dawn Vincent, Sanctuary press officer, said: "We were confident the donkeys we took would be familiar with different environments."

Maxine's day began at 5am and the donkeys and staff travelled to London, where temporary stables at the studio had been constructed for the overnight stopover before returning to London on Sunday.

She said: "It was great for the Donkey Sanctuary and there have been lots of positive comments from visitors and people coming up to see them."

Dawn added: "It helps us to raise awareness of the charity to a new audience as the show is for younger people."

ITV will give a donation to cover the charity's travel costs and, said Dawn, donations had been made via the Sanctuary's website since the programme.

Impressed how the teams tackled learning so many donkeys' names, the founder's granddaughter added: "I still struggle to learn them.

"They went and met each one and were so gentle with them and respected ours and the donkeys' wishes.