Meet Heike the donkey whisperer

heike-donkeys

I first met Heike Mack-Behle about 10 years ago when I moved to Boonah. The German-born, former champion dressage rider had also recently moved to the town with her family and was attracting quite a bit of interest for her love of donkeys.

She had established an unofficial donkey sanctuary, rescuing donkeys from the knackery and from paddocks where they had been forgotten by their owners.

Donkeys live for up to 50 years, which means they often outlast their owners … or sadly their owner’s interest.

Heike had developed an allergy to horses and needed to find another animal on which to inflict her love. Donkeys, while similar to horses, did not cause Heike to have the same reaction and she realised that she had a natural connection with the docile creatures.

Quickly her herd grew from two to four to 25! Now she runs her Destiny Donkey Farm from her Boonah property and welcomes visitors to her ‘Assquestrian’ Arena where she educates people about these beautiful animals. Heike also runs a rehoming service, matching donkeys to new owners. She has an extensive list of people waiting on donkeys and that list features farmers, keen to use the donkeys to guard their sheep and goat herds.

“Compared to horses I found them very, very different,” says Heike. “They were quieter, calmer and smarter. They’re very entertaining, extremely curious and very social. Donkeys are very docile and easy to train. If I’m aware of a younger, unhandled donkey with no health issues then I connect them with the farmers for livestock protection

“I supply donkeys to people on hobby farms as well as people on big, big, big farms with between 5000 and 10,000 sheep.

“Donkeys are extremely social and when you put a donkey in with some sort of live stock the donkey thinks, ‘Wow these are all my mates’. They roam with them day and night. They just love sheep, calves, foals but they absolutely can’t stand K9s. “Dingos, wild dogs, cross breeds, the neighbour’s dogs, foxes. They will chase them, they will stomp on them, they will give them the sign to stay away from their mates.

“They can get even more aggressive and bit them and grab them at the neck and throw them around. The dog definitely gets the message. I would say 90 per cent of donkeys have this special instinct and really hate K9s. I get very positive feedback from farmers who say, “Normally I would have lost 20 lambs and this season I’ve only lost two or three.’ “They can see an improvement.”

“I do this purely for the donkeys – they’re all my babies. I don’t know why but I just have a very special chemistry with donkeys.”


The Sunday Mail (Queensland)
Sep 15 2013