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Project: Kona Nightingale -- the final chapter

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: Mar 29 2013 06:20:00 PM HST

Drought conditions forced hundreds of wild donkeys from the hillsides into residential neigbhorhoods. But rather than killing them, community groups stepped up to save the donkeys and find them all new homes.

HONOLULU -

Big Island veterinarian Brady Bergin spent time this week at a new donkey holding area on Oahu.

It was in sharp contrast to where the Kona Nightingales were rescued.

"It was harsh. It wasn’t pretty to see carcasses out there, the donkeys struggling out there. There were so many, and I said this is a big problem," recalled Bergin.

Bergin put the donkey dilemma this way:  

No one wanted to see them die--either a slow painful death to drought, or a fast-fix mass eradication.

That’s why he offered to at least try to save them.

 "It is hard to fathom that we have been this successful in this short amount of time. We have had tremendous support from the community," Bergin said.     

The solution was to round them up, sterilize the females, castrate the males and help find the donkeys new homes.

It happened fast. Now, of an estimated 600 donkeys, 500 have been re-homed.

120 were even sent away to California.  

“This is what can be achieved when people come together for the animals none of us could have done this on our own. It really demonstrates that no hurdle is too big when it comes to animal and human conflicts, which are typically insurmountable," said Inga Gibson, state director for the Humane Society of the United States.

But the Big Island is likely maxed out on donkey adoptions.

That's where Equine 808 figures in.

The hope is that the remaining donkeys will come here to Oahu where they will find new  homes.

The head of the Kunia facility never imagined donkeys would be part of her future.

 "I never had donkey experience before. I actually had to pick up a book .Some of the training that I did with the horses, didn’t work on the donkeys as I found out later So, they are teaching me!" said Betina Parker of Equine 808, a horse rescue facility.

For now, the donkeys seem to be taking to big city ranch life.

Sixteen that were sent over to Oahu have already been adopted and there are at least 80 more that need to be rescued.

"It is still urgent to me, even though the numbers are down. This is still an urgent situation to get these guys into new homes," Bergin said.

It is an unlikely success story, playing out across the state.

The estimated tab for Operation Kona Nightingale is expected to be about $200,000.

Adopt-a- Donkey Resources:

Equine 808 Horse Rescue,   808: 590-1210

Aina Hau Animal Hospital,  808: 968-6148

Humane Society of the United States Hawaii Chapter,   808- 922-9910

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