Waimea veterinarian Brady Bergin has teamed up with the Humane Society of the United States and a local rancher to keep the herd population in check. They hope their rescue efforts will avoid the need to eradicate the wild donkeys.
A recent aerial survey over the Waikaloa area with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters found a donkey population estimated at 400-600.
Severe drought conditions are forcing the donkeys to forage for something to eat and drink. Donkeys have started coming into people?s backyards in the Waikaloa Village area and onto the highway.
The increase of donkeys on the move have prompted the posting of electronic signs warning motorists of the threat of feral donkeys.
"It is a big problem. The numbers have been growing, year after year, and it has become more serious because of the lack of food and water,? said Bergin, of the Aina Hou Animal Hospital.
The donkeys have also come down to enjoy the green grass at the Waikoloa Elementary and Middle School campus.
?I had one of the little kids say 'Ms. Kosa-Correia there's donkey poop over here.' And I said, 'oh right,'? Kosa-Correia said.
The school custodians began reporting actual sightings starting in the spring of this year, but the dozen or so donkeys have come down before sunrise and are gone before the children arrive.
At this point, the school administrator said the donkeys are more of a nusiance than a safety threat, making more work for her staff to clear out the donkey dung.
?They call it their parade route, they go behind where the donkeys have been to make sure they pick up the remnants and make sure the campus is clean before the kids come,? Kosa Correia said.
Over the past month, local rancher Stan Botielho has been helping Bergin and Gibson trap the wild donkeys in order to begin the sterilizations.
"Luckily, a rancher who is leasing that land is supplying water for his cattle to drink as well, and without his help we would not be able to get these re-homed and relocated,? said Bergin.
?Ideally we would like to keep them here if we are able to find a property where they can be safely humanely housed as a sanctuary. That would be an ideal option, but we are also looking at sending a portion of the herd to the mainland,? Gibson said.
She is working to get a team of equine veterinarians from the mainland to assist Brady since he can't handle the castrations alone. The process is expensive and intensive. Gibson hopes to provide more manpower sometime next year.
?We are hoping to castrate and re-home and relocate a couple hundred donkeys. Three to six months out we would sterilize and re-home another portion of the herd,? said Gibson, of the Humane Society of the United States.
Gibson is helping with the adoption of the donkeys. So far, homes have been found for 40 of them. Gibson expects that adoption forms will be available on the organization?s website by Friday.