Is it a zebra? A donkey? Nope! One of the newest additions at this African reserve is a zonkey! Sheldrick Wildlife Trust made the amazing discovery of this incredibly rare animal this week. The week's-old baby was seen with its mother, and its birth has an interesting story.
Last year, a curious and friendly female zebra ventured outside her previous home within the Tsavo East National Park. She wandered into a nearby community, and it didn't take her long to make new friends. The zebra didn't exactly blend in, but that didn't stop her from joining a herd of livestock living at a nearby farm.
For weeks, the zebra made herself at home on the farm. Eventually, news crews caught wind of the interesting story. The sociable zebra became somewhat of a local celebrity, but it also became clear she couldn't stay on the farm. After weeks of living on the farm, the zebra couldn't return back to her previous life. Wildlife officials thought of a solution and relocated her to the Kenze Anti-Poaching Team's base in Chyulu National Park.
Proving her ability to adapt, the zebra adjusted well to her new home and seemed to live happily in the bush. The Kenze team saw her frequently during their rounds, and a few days ago, they got an incredible surprise.
While working on fence maintenance, park workers spotted the famous zebra once again. But this time, she wasn't alone. She was grazing in the bush with a brand new foal by her side. At first, they thought the foal was covered in mud. Zebra foals are born with brown stripes that eventually turn black. This foal, however, seemed to be missing its stripes.
It took several weeks for workers to realize the foal's odd coloring wasn't due to mud. The older the foal got, the more obvious it was that it wasn't the average animal. It has the body of a donkey, but the legs of a zebra. If you look at its face, you can also see its resemblance to a donkey. Though it was hard to believe, wildlife officials realized their once-wayward zebra had given birth to a zonkey!
Zebras have a 12-month gestation period, and it wasn't hard to connect the dots to figure out what happened. The female zebra obviously met an amicable donkey during her time on the farm, and no one knew until after she gave birth.
Zonkeys are incredibly rare hybrids. They're technically mules, so the foal will likely never be able to reproduce. It should, however, live a normal and happy life on the reserve.
If you're a wildlife advocate, don't forget to follow Sheldrick Wildlife Trust on Facebook! The incredible organization operates the most successful orphan elephant rescue program in the world. They're dedicated to preserving all kinds of wildlife.
All images used and embedded with permission from Sheldrick Wildlife Trust on Facebook