"Mum and baby are thriving," caregivers at the Chyulu Hills National Park in Kenya said

By Claudia Harmata
April 13, 2020 02:14 PM
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Credit: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

It’s a… zonkey!

Earlier this year, a zebra at the Chyulu Hills National Park in Kenya was spotted with a strange-looking foal by her side that had a brown body and stripes up and down its legs.

Caregivers initially thought the youngster was dirty from “wallowing in a mud bath.” However, after closer examination, they quickly realized that the baby was actually an “unusual hybrid between a zebra and donkey.”

They explained that prior to living at the Chyulu Hills National Park, the mother zebra had been found settling into a community bordering the Tsavo East National Park and had made herself an “honorary member of a local woman’s cattle herd.” There, she must have mated with a donkey.

“The gestation period of a zebra is twelve months, so it’s not difficult to connect the dots. During her time living within the community last year, she had obviously become acquainted with an amorous donkey,” the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, one of Africa’s oldest conservation organizations, wrote in a statement on their website last week. “The zonkey combines the sturdy body of its donkey sire and the striped legs of its zebra mother, which makes for a striking creature.”

Credit: David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Caregivers said they were “happy to report that mum and baby are thriving.”

“Their home is in an area that isn’t plagued by heavy predation and thanks to the lush conditions, water and, plentiful grass, it is a good place to call home,” they added.

Officials explained that they plan to take care of the pair until the animals are discovered by a zeal, or a herd of wild zebras, as the species are highly social and typically live in groups.

“Until that day comes, they seem quite content to spend their days grazing side-by-side, a sight that makes us all stop and marvel at the wonders of nature,” officials wrote.

According to the trust, the foal is expected to live a normal life. However, since it is a mule, it will be unable to successfully breed once it reaches maturity.

“Working with wildlife, one learns to expect the unexpected,” officials with the trust wrote. “Even the most seemingly straightforward story can eventually reveal its true stripes and end up surprising us all.”