At first it seemed unusual for the young foal with striped legs and tawny coloured head and body. However, upon a closer inspection the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust discovered that the foal was actually a zonkey, a cross-breed of a zebra and a donkey.
A couple of months ago the zebra had wandered out of the Tsavo East National Park into a community bordering the park where she became an honorary member of a local woman’s cattle herd. The zebra stayed their for many weeks until she was translocated to Chyulu National Park for protection under Kenze Anti-Poaching team.
The birth of the rare zonkey was quite a shocker to the conservationists, however, since zebra pregnancies last for twelve months, it’s not difficult to connect the dots, according to the team.
“While zebra foals are born with white and brown stripes that eventually turn black, this little one’s body was suspiciously light on stripes and overwhelmingly tawny in colour,” the organisation stated.
“Working with wildlife one learns to expect the unexpected,” the conservationists stated. “Even the most seemingly straightforward story can eventually reveal its true stripes and end up surprising us all. At first, we thought that ‘the foal’ had just been wallowing in the mud bath, but then the truth dawned on us: Our wayward zebra had given birth to a zonkey!”
Cross breeding within the equine family has been quite rare, especially in the wild and a zonkey is a highly unusual hybrid between a zebra and a donkey.
Since the gestation period of a zebra is twelve months, it is clear the zebra became acquainted with an ‘amorous donkey’ when she wandered into the domestic community.
The zonkey is characterised by the sturdy body of its donkey sire and striped legs of its zebra mom. While the creature would continue to lead a normal life, but just like mules, they cannot produce their own offspring.
The foal and its mother are often seen thriving in their new home that isn’t plagued by heavy predation, an area with plenty of water and verdant green grass, before they are finally introduced to the wild family at the right time.
“Until that day comes, they seem quite content to spend their days grazing side-by-side,” said the team at Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, “a sight that makes us all stop and marvel at the wonders of nature.”