Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary founder dies

BREAKING NEWS: Dr Elisabeth Svendsen, founder of the Donkey Sanctuary at Sidmouth, has died following a stroke

THE founder of the largest donkey welfare charity in the world – The Donkey Sanctuary based at Sidmouth – is dead.

Dr Elisabeth Svendsen, MBE, who started her charity in 1969 after trying to rescue donkeys from a market in Exeter that were in a poor state, suffered a stroke yesterday (Wednesday) morning at her home in the Sanctuary grounds and died, with family by her bedside, at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, Wonford at 1.30pm. She was 81.

A shocked son, Paul Svendsen, who manages the main-line European arm of the charity from Spain, flew home when he heard the news.

Today he exclusively told the Sidmouth Herald: “She will be impossible to replace. So many people, not just here, but all over the world, will miss mum.”

Dr S, as she was affectionately called, had another nickname – Mama Punda – mother to all of us.

The Donkey Sanctuary has aided 14,500 donkeys since its official formation in 1972 and operates in 29 countries across the world.

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She founded the sanctuary’s sister charity, the Elisabeth Svendsen Trust for Children and Donkeys, to aid children with special needs through riding therapy, in 1975.

Sanctuary chief executive David Cook said: “The loss of Dr Svendsen will be felt deeply by her staff who loved her dearly, as well as Donkey Sanctuary supporters all over the world.

“Her son Paul and granddaughter Dawn remain deeply involved with The Donkey Sanctuary’s work and our heart goes out to the family at this devastating time.

“The charity that Dr Svendsen built from nothing to the international organisation it is today, will continue its work in her memory, holding fast to her vision of a world in which every donkey and mule receives the care and respect it so needs.”

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