WAIKOLOA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Donkeys are flying on the Big Island!
As part of a historic plan to control the growing overpopulation problem in Waikoloa, 120 feral donkeys received a one-way ticket to a ranch in California today. It's being billed as "The Flight of the Nightingales".
"It's ideal," says veterinarian Brady Bergin. "It's the best way for them to travel."
Ten dozen wild Nightingale donkeys are flying - six to a pen, without tranquilizers - from Kona to Los Angeles. "It's air-conditioned. The boxes have shavings and bedding for them so that their urine will be soaked, and it will be comfortable for them to lie down," explains Dr. Bergin.
Nothing like this has ever been done before, and the monumental task of transporting dozens of donkeys to the mainland began long before this airplane ride.
U.S. Humane Society Equine Director, Keith Dane, says, "First, we had to get the donkeys to come to us. We did not want to chase them or round them up or use helicopters to gather them. So, we set up a very gentle trapping system."
They used food and water to entice them. Weeks later, those donkeys were micro-chipped, immunized, treated with anti-biotics, and for the males, castrated.
Rescuers felt they had to do something to curb the growing overpopulation in drought-stricken West Hawaii. 600 were estimated to be living in the area. Feral donkeys have trashed landscapes, broken fences, and roamed too close for comfort in their search for food. Now, they're en route to Tehachapi, California where experts at Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue will help find homes for them. Big island rescuers were hoping to keep them in Hawaii, but the numbers were just too large.
"They're our donkeys, and we'd like them to stay. We just have so many of them, when we have an opportunity to send them to a place like Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue, where they're going to receive the best care a donkey could ask for, it's hard for us to turn that down," says Dr. Bergin.
He adds they'll send more wild donkeys over to the mainland, if this trip proves successful. The owners of the donkey rescue plan to hold an adoption fair on October 29th in Tehachapi, and they say they don't think they'll have any problem adopting "Hawaiian" donkeys.
Now, these beasts of burden will no longer be a burden to residents on the Big Island.