Big Island donkeys find home at Honolulu Zoo

Published On: Feb 28 2014 07:41:46 PM HST

They once roamed wild on the Big Island, but now hundreds of Kona Nightingale donkeys have found new homes and some right here on Oahu.

Click to watch Ashley Moser's story.

"At one time, hundreds….came out at one time it would stop traffic both ways just roaming around. So we're so happy they found good homes," said Jean Demercer-Breese, a Big Island resident.

Some Big Island neighborhoods were overrun with donkeys as recently as a year ago. Drought conditions forced the Kona Nightingale donkeys to leave the hillsides and head for the suburbs.

Fast forward to today, most of them have been relocated. 500 re-homed and 120 sent away to California. But for three-year-old Dusty and two-year-old Eyore, the Honolulu Zoo is their new home.

"The donkeys have a long history with us. They were brought in to the Big Island. Supposedly they were an African species brought in to help us haul the coffee on the Big Island," said Linda Meyers, a Donkey Trainer.

Trainers say the donkeys were used because they were sturdy-footed and can carry a lot of weight. But since the introduction of the train, plantation workers released them. When the donkeys were in the wild their population grew out of control.

"They have a background in our Hawaiian history that should be learned. Why they are here, why they're out in the wild, why they are collected like that," said Meyers.

Trainers want to use Dusty and Eyore to help teach that history. First, they need to get the donkeys more comfortable with human interactions. With those cute faces and furry coats, not petting them will be hard.

One of the neat things about the Kona Nightingale donkeys is that it is one of the many species that has a cross on its back. Trainers say giving them a scratch on the back is one step. Teaching them other behaviors was a bit tricky.

"Some of us have horse background and they are totally different from horses. Donkeys have a little more though process going on," said Meyers.

Even though the trainers cannot read the donkeys' minds, they say they're certain Dusty and Eyore are happy to have a new home.

The Honolulu Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.


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