Gloucester High School students spent some time studying livestock of a different variety when they visited the Last Stop Donkey Program (LSDP) facility near Singleton.
The excursion was instigated by the school's year 9 agricultural students who said they wanted to study the animals, an idea agreed upon with some reluctance by agricultural teacher, Sally Andrews.
"We were throwing around ideas as to what to study and they threw out donkeys, and initially I thought 'no, we're not going to study donkeys'," Mrs Andrews said.
"Then they said 'What about goats?', so then we went back to the donkeys idea."
Despite her initial reluctance, and with the aid of research, Mrs Andrews discovered that donkeys have a natural affinity for working as stock guardians, making them ideal for many farms.
The LSPD receives donkeys from the Northern Territory and parts of Queensland where they are considered a feral pest, and provides training and education so they are suitable to be sold to properties suffering stock losses from wild dogs, or to families simply as much loved pets.
While visiting the LSDP facility, students were able to observe wild-caught donkeys, some "handled" donkeys, and some that were undergoing training. The encounter provided them with a unique view as to how the animals are repurposed from feral pests to farm assets.
According to LSDP co-founder, Brooke Purvis, the students were engaged, respectful and extremely inquisitive about the work done at the facility.
"The students had the opportunity to have a look at the different processes and where they are up to and what skills we used at each stage," Brooke said.
"They were able to ask lots of questions, which they did, and were probably better than most adults who come to our training courses.
"They were super switched on."
Unsurprisingly, the students' interaction with the donkeys has prompted a request for some of their own, the plan being to have animals kept on the agricultural plot at Gloucester High.
The kids were amazing, they were really really really well behaved, just a credit to their community.- Last Stop Donkey Program's Brooke Purvis, speaking about the Gloucester High School students
However, approval and funding needs to be obtained before anything resembling donkey-mania is to be unleashed at the school.
Not that there's any doubt regarding the appeal of the big-eared, frequently stubborn, yet highly intelligent animals.
"Brooke had told me on the phone that they were like big puppy dogs, but I didn't believe it," Mrs Andrews said.
"But they were. They would nuzzle under your arm for some attention and were just gorgeous, gorgeous animals."
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