Is it a donkey? Is it a zebra? It’s a zonkey.
In May 2019, the SWT and Kenyan Wildlife Service’s (KWS) Mobile Veterinary Unit received the call — a wayward zebra had ventured out of Tsavo East National Park and into a bordering community of animals. Surprisingly, she quickly made herself at home amongst the cattle. The incident was so cute and unusual that local media aired a segment on the zebra’s unlikely new friends.
Nonetheless, the SWT was tasked with returning the stray animal to a more protected area. After settling on Chyulu National Park, she was sedated and transported on the back of a pickup truck.
Fortunately for her, this new home was a firmly protected anti-poaching property. Earlier this year, a fence maintenance crew noticed she suddenly had an unexpected companion.
Chyulu Hills National Park officials in Kenya were stunned when they noticed a strange looking foal. While the young animal had stripes, they barely covered her brown body. That’s when they realised this wasn’t a zebra, at all — but a zonkey, a donkey-zebra hybrid.
Once the animal rescue and rehabilitation organisation examined the peculiar foal up close, it became clear — the zebra mother had, indeed, successfully mated with a local donkey.
The zonkey is in perfect health and protected by anti-poaching laws. However, this type of cross-breeding has consequences. The young foal won’t be able to breed once it reaches maturity.
A zonkey is the result of a female zebra mating with a male donkey. When a male zebra and a female donkey mate, their offspring is called a zedonk. Other zebra hybrids exist, such as zorses, zonies, and zetlands.
Hybridisation can come with risks regarding future populations as well as the lifespan of the offspring itself.
As for the zonkey, it appears to be in perfect health, with the land’s anti-poaching laws strictly enforced. With no heavy predation plaguing the park and plenty of grass and water, it’s safe to say the foal has been born into a happy home.
While the brave little foal will sadly be unable to breed little zonkeys of its own one day, she and her mother are healthy, safe, and together.
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