A zebra was recently spotted in Kenya's Chyulu Hills National Park with a peculiar-looking foal by her side. It had stripes, but they weren't dark and her body was lightly concealed.
When the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust spotted the little foal, caregivers from the animal welfare and recovery agency realised that she had stripes, but they were very slight and only covering about half of her body.
They discovered that the beautiful little foal was not a zebra at all after taking a closer look. She was a zonkey, the daughter of a zebra and a donkey.
In press release the group said:
Working with wildlife, one learns to expect the unexpected.
Even the most seemingly straightforward story can eventually reveal its true stripes and end up surprising us all.
Mummy zebra, who has not yet been named, was a runaway female who made her way out of Tsavo East National Park in Kenya and into a rural cattle herd group where she is said to have 'made herself at home.'
The mama was brought to Chyulu National Park by the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which usually cares for baby elephants , rhinos and sometimes orphaned zebras.
Zebra pregnancies last a full 12 months, but it was straightforward for the rescue centre staff to find out what had happened, provided that in the last year she had spent a lot of time living with the cattle herd.
Mama zebra had ‘obviously become acquainted with an amorous donkey’, according to the statement.
The wildlife trust explained:
The zonkey combines the sturdy body of its donkey sire and the striped legs of its zebra mother, which makes for a striking creature.
While it should otherwise lead a normal life, zonkeys are mules, meaning that it will be unable to successfully breed once it reaches maturity.
It's a Zonkey! We've connected the dots.... or is that joined the stripes, as to the origins of this unusual character, born to a female zebra helped last year by our SWT/KWS Tsavo Vet Unit. Get the full story at https://t.co/FHCp1VyCuw pic.twitter.com/zrOww0cSHp— Sheldrick Wildlife (@SheldrickTrust) April 8, 2020
Fortunately, at Chyulu National Park, which has not many predators and has plenty of food and water to keep them satisfied and content, mama zebra and baby zonkey are 'thriving' and enjoying their best life.
In particular, Zonkeys are extremely unusual, since the chance of mating a zebra and a donkey is uncommon since they do not have the same number of chromosomes.
This is what makes little zonkey foal so special.
Image Credit: The Sheldrick Trust