Donkeys in Norwich have their space hoppers stolen

A Norwich animal sanctuary is appealing for people to dig out their vintage children's garden toys after its donkeys were robbed of their favourite toys.

Space hoppers are the toy of choice for the donkeys at Little Tinkers animal sanctuary on Bluebell Road, Eaton.

The large rubber balls, which have handles on to allow the owner to bounce around on them, became popular in the UK in the 1970s and are still a summer favourite with young children.

But the donkeys have been left without anything to play with in recent weeks after their toys were stolen overnight.

The sanctuary's paddocks hold six donkeys and 22 Shetland ponies, set back from Bluebell Road between Eaton village and the University of East Anglia.

Owner of Little Tinkers, Julie Bassett, explained: 'We've had three space hoppers here for about six months, which we lock up at night.

'But unfortunately one night, about three-and-a-half weeks ago we left them out.

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'I came up in the morning and they were gone so I would think someone has stolen them, because the path that runs alongside the field is for public access.'

Mrs Bassett has previously featured in the Evening News after saving two donkeys in November 2008 that were facing being cruelly transported from France to Italy to be slaughtered.

After seeing horrific pictures of the ill-treatment that donkeys were suffering on the continent posted on the internet by an organisation called Equine Section, Mrs Bassett felt compelled to step in and bring two donkeys to her sanctuary.

She has since dedicated her time and efforts to rescuing other donkeys, as well as the Shetland ponies she and her husband, Ken, already cared for.

Now she is hoping for some kind donations of old toys for her fun-loving donkeys, saying: 'They like the space hoppers because they can pick them up by the handles and throw them about.

'If anyone has got something like the space hoppers in their garden shed then that would be really good.

'I've been doing this for 11 years now and it is all completely self-funded. Just because people don't want them any more doesn't mean they should be slaughtered like they are in France and Italy.'

If you have an old space hopper or similar toy, such as a large rubber exercise ball, that you would like to donate to the sanctuary then you can get in touch with Mrs Bassett through the website or by emailing

Have you got an unusual story for the Evening News? Contact reporter David Freezer on 01603 772418 or email

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