When donkeys fly? Come September, they will!

By Teri Okita – bio | email

WAIKOLOA (HawaiiNewsNow) - You've heard the saying, "When pigs fly"? How about when donkeys fly?!

For decades, residents on the west side of the Big Island have dealt with a growing feral donkey problem. In the last few years, particularly, overpopulation and drought have led to a wide variety of nuisance issues. For many in Waikoloa, the beasts of burden have become just that - a burden.

In their search for food and water, hundreds of wild donkeys have trashed landscapes, broken fences, and simply roamed too close for comfort. But now, experts have come up with an interesting solution that's never been tried before. A plan is in place to fly a planeload of them to a Southern California ranch in the Tehachapi mountains.

Mark Meyers, executive director at Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue says, "I've put them on trailers. I've put them on train cars. I've put them on double-decker trailers. I've put them pretty much everyone except for planes, so I'm kind of curious myself."

The Texas-based donkey rescue has teamed up with Waimea veterinarian Brady Bergin to help solve the growing problem - without the animals being hunted, sold, or consumed. They're rounding up about 100 donkeys and on September 16th, they'll be on a one-way flight to Los Angeles. September's flight will be the first time donkeys have ever been exported "from" Hawaii.

"It is somewhat historic," says Dr. Bergin, adding that they're looking for people to adopt the Kona Nightingales, as the donkeys are commonly referred to. Past efforts to control the population have never been this extensive.

"We're not encouraging people to train these donkeys as pets or domesticate them in any way. We're just looking for a new home for them, basically, to live out their years," says Bergin.

Donkeys were first brought to Honolulu back in the 1820's and then, to Kona as coffee farms developed. But once vehicles became popular, donkeys became obsolete and were left to roam wild. The donkey rescue doesn't think they'll have any problem getting these animals adopted.

Meyers says, "People are funny and they can look at a million donkeys and think, 'Oh, that'd be cute to have one', but if you say, 'Oh, it's a Hawaiian donkey', I've got people lined up around the block, thinking that they've got to have one of those."

The rescue group plans to hold an adoption fair in October. The animals are all believed to be descendants of those original donkeys brought here to work the sugarcane and coffee fields.

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