You can help the wild donkeys from Hawaii by donating land, volunteering or even adopting one.
More than 100 wild donkeys in Hawaii have been examined from head to hoof, given Coggins tests and microchipped in preparation for an airlift to a California sanctuary, all part of an effort by the Humane Society of the United States and local residents to save the donkey’s lives.
The endeavor is called the Waikoloa Donkey Rescue and Rehoming Project, with Waikoloa being the name of the area on Hawaii’s Big Island where the donkeys roam, often crossing busy roads as they search for food and water, a move that puts both donkeys and drivers at risk.
The rescue is a complicated, coordinated effort that includes: HSUS Equine Protection Director Keith Dane, Hawaii State Director Inga Gibson, local equine veterinarian Dr. Brady Bergin, Malama Waikoloa Nightingales founder Anika Glass, the West Hawaii and Hawaii Island Humane Societies, numerous local and state policy makers, and other community members concerned about the future welfare of these animals.
Begun in 2010, the project has already rehomed 200 donkeys from the Big Island in Hawaii. Recently, 200 more wild donkeys were captured and treated at a clinic by a team of veterinarians and veterinary technicians from California, Dane said. The jacks were castrated (potential adopters must agree to not breed the jennies), and 80 donkeys, including all foals, were adopted locally. The remaining 120 donkeys will be flown out September 16 to the Eagle Eye Sanctuary in northern California, with the flight compliments of the Humane Society of the United States.
None of the donkeys being flown out are under the age of two, nor are there are any seniors making the trip, Dane said. “We’re not moving youngsters, oldsters, or any heavily pregnant jennies,” he said. “There are some pregnant jennies going, but they’re not very far along.”
Once the donkeys are on the plane, Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue becomes responsible for their ongoing care and adoption, and will accompany them on their flight from Kona to Los Angeles as well as their transport to the sanctuary in Tehachapi, California.
Used long ago on coffee plantations, the donkeys, known as “nightingales” because they bray at sunrise and sunset, slowly became wild, breeding unchecked as they did so. It’s this factor, as well as increased development in Hawaii and severe drought, that has the Humane Society of the United States stepping in for herd management and rescue efforts.
Dane said that while everyone prefers the donkeys stay in Hawaii, it’s just not possible without land for a sanctuary. The donkeys had taken up residence on a privately owned cattle ranch, Dane said, and due to an ongoing severe drought, were competing with the cattle for precious supplies of food and water.
“They’re not considered wildlife or livestock, so they don’t have those protections,” he said. “They’re not owned by anyone–except the person whose land they wander onto.”
The original herd is now estimated to have been 600 in number, and Dane says the worry is that if the population continues to increase, the donkeys will become starved and dehydrated. “Ideally, we’d like to find homes for the remaining 200,” he said.
Another option is for someone to donate land on the Big Island, or the money to purchase land, in order for the donkeys to have a sanctuary in their native habitat.
“The climate on the Big Island is really dry, and the donkeys thrive on the grasses there, ” Dane said, “which also does a service by keeping those dry grasses down, limiting fire risk.” And the rocky fields, he said, keep their hooves in good shape.
As they continue to look for land for a local sanctuary for the donkeys, the Humane Society of the United States has conducted ongoing sterilization clinics, and is considering PZP immunocontraception, a contraceptive vaccine for animals which has been used in wild horse herds on the mainland for more 20 years.
How you can help:
- Provide sanctuary: If you’re a property owner who’s interested in donating land to provide sanctuary for the animals, contact The HSUS’s Wildlife Land Trust to discuss the process.
- Volunteer: If you would like to volunteer, contact Hawaii State Director Inga Gibson at email@example.com.
- Adopt: If you would like to adopt a donkey, please complete the pre-adoption application. Learn what’s involved in caring for a donkey from The Donkey Sanctuary or Donkey Rescue.