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Donkeys dig wells that provide support to other animals

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Posted at 5:58 PM, May 06, 2021

You’ve probably heard of goats mowing lawns. Now, a new study is looking at how wild donkeys and horses can help dig water wells.

Researchers spent three years in the Arizona desert, studying how their digging habits impacted the ecosystem.

“This behavior appears to have this capacity to sustain water availability through the hottest and driest parts of the year and every species is responding to that,” said Erick Lundgren, lead researcher at Aarhus University.

Lundgren says everything from birds to amphibians were seen drinking water from the donkey wells.

Over the course of the three years, he says some summers were drier than others and these wells were often the only source of water for other animals.

And although donkeys and horses may not be the first animals you think of for digging holes, some wells were as deep as five feet to get to water.

But as far as recruiting donkeys to dig wells for humans, the way goats mow the grass, that may be unlikely.

“I don't really see the commercial use of this like that, but I think that what this study asks to do is to study these organisms as wildlife and to think of them as wildlife and recognize these relationships they have with other organisms, with deer and big horn sheep and birds, are far more nuanced than the invasive paradigms and metaphors that we usually use to describe them,” said

Next, he wants research to look at how the threat of predators impacts the number of wells donkeys and horses dig.