Duchess of Cornwall celebrates birthday with trip to donkey sanctuary

By Claire Hayhurst, PA

The Duchess of Cornwall celebrated her 72nd birthday with a visit to a donkey sanctuary, where she met two miniature donkeys named William and Harry.

Camilla went to The Donkey Sanctuary’s headquarters in Sidmouth, Devon, on Wednesday to commemorate the charity’s 50th anniversary.

She was welcomed to the centre by a group of year five and six students from Sidmouth Primary School, who waved flags and cheered as she arrived.

During the visit, Camilla was invited to officially name a three-week-old foal, which she called Sweet Pea.

The Duchess of Cornwall met children from a local primary school (Ben Birchall/PA)

She told staff she was “very sad” that she was unable to meet Sweet Pea, as the donkey was too young to be at the sanctuary.

“But it gives me the perfect opportunity to come back again,” she added.

The duchess entered a courtyard with 40 donkeys and met many of them, as well as their handlers – asking if they each had a favourite donkey.

“I’ve had a lot of grandchildren on the telephone this morning saying: ‘Please, please if you see a nice donkey, please can we have it?'” Camilla said.

“So I’m hoping that in time I may be able to rehouse some of them.”

Chief executive officer of The Donkey Sanctuary Mike Baker presents the Duchess of Cornwall with a birthday gift during her visit (Ben Birchall/PA)

Staff presented her with a framed picture of Sweet Pea and a Donkey Sanctuary themed Monopoly set as a birthday gift.

She was also given a posy by a three-year-old boy, who began to sing Happy Birthday to her.

Mike Baker, chief executive of The Donkey Sanctuary, said: “The Duchess of Cornwall’s visit today was an opportunity to celebrate our landmark achievements over the last 50 years – from our foundation as a charity rescuing UK donkeys from neglect and abuse to a global leader for equine welfare, research and veterinary care.”

Camilla also visited the charity’s donkey-facilitated learning centre, one of six across the UK that offers programmes for vulnerable children and adults.

The Donkey Sanctuary was founded by Dr Elisabeth Svendsen in 1969 and now runs 10 sanctuaries across the UK and Europe, caring for more than 6,000 donkeys and mules.

It operates programmes in almost 40 countries for animals working in agriculture, industry and transportation, and those used in the production of meat and skin.

Camilla, who has a keen interest in animal welfare, became patron of The Donkey Sanctuary’s partner organisation Brooke, which aims to improve the lives of working horses, donkeys and mules.

The duchess has been on an annual three-day tour of Devon and Cornwall with the Prince of Wales.