After rescuing a zebra that fled the reserve, biologists were surprised by the birth of a zonkey, a hybrid between a zebra and a donkey.
Biologists at the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust project in Kenya were surprised when a zebra that was under their care gave birth to a hybrid. This was not the first time that something like this happened, but it is still a rare occurrence in nature.
According to the institution’s professionals, in 2019, one of the zebras crossed the reserve border and joined the herd of a woman who lives nearby. The animal continued to live there for many weeks, until local media heard about it and the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust team went to get the runaway.
“At this point, the zebra had become fairly habituated to community life, so we had to choose her new home with that in mind,” the experts said in a statement on the project’s website. “We settled on our Kenze Anti-Poaching Team’s base in Chyulu National Park, so they could keep a close eye on her while she settled into her new home.”
According to the biologists, it was only earlier this year that a fence maintenance team saw the zebra with a small foal by her side. As the little one’s body was brown, they thought it was dirty with mud. The surprise came when, a few weeks after the first sighting, the professionals were able to examine it more closely.
While zebra foals are born with white and brown stripes that eventually turn black, this animal’s body was quite different, it had only a few stripes and a predominantly yellowish color. “At first, we thought that it had just been wallowing in the mud bath, but then the truth dawned on us: Our wayward zebra had given birth to a zonkey!” The experts shared. “The gestation period of a zebra is twelve months, so it’s not difficult to connect the dots.”
During the time the zebra spent outside the reserve, the animal crossed with a donkey. Such occurrences are possible in nature, as both species are part of the horse family. However, like mules (hybrids between a male donkey and a female horse) the young animal will be unable to reproduce when it reaches sexual maturity.
Fortunately, both the foal and the mother zebra are healthy and happy living in the reserve. “They seem quite content to spend their days grazing side-by-side,” wrote the professionals. “This is a sight that makes us all stop and marvel at the wonders of nature.”