We don’t ordinarily think of donkeys as diggers, especially not as vital to the desert environment. A researcher from Aarhus University in Denmark has made a discovery that shows a special provision God made to use donkeys to provide water for other life forms. Erick Lundgren has documented donkeys digging wells in the desert. In 2014 Lundgren studied feral horses and donkeys and noticed them digging holes deep enough to reach groundwater.
From 2014 to 2018, Lundgren mapped groundwater in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert and found that holes dug by donkeys provided 74% of available water for all forms of life in the area. The donkeys seemed to know where to find water, and 57 vertebrate species from migratory songbirds to mountain lions and even a bear came to the donkey wells to drink.
It is fascinating that this is not a local anomaly. Researchers have documented donkeys digging wells in Central Asia, so this action is built into the donkey’s genome. Attempting to make a case for accidental donkey well-digging fails when isolated populations have the same instinctive drive. They use it not only to survive themselves but to benefit an entire ecosystem.
Research into donkeys digging wells shows that the donkeys know where to dig because the digging is not random. The wells dug by donkeys decreased the distance between water sources to an average of 843 meters, making essential water available to more animals with less tension. We suggest this is a beautiful example of God’s design allowing animals to live in environments that would seem unlikely to support life.
— John N. Clayton © 2021
Reference: Science News, June 5, 2021, page 14.