Big effort to save wild island donkeys from servitude

A donkey foal receiving treatment at the Bonaire Donkey Sanctuary.
An injured donkey foal receives treatment at Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire.

The Donkey Sanctuary is hopeful efforts to provide a better life for 200 wild donkeys on a Caribbean island will prove fruitful.

The British-based charity has gone into bat for the feral donkeys on the island of Bonaire, in the Dutch Caribbean.

Donkeys have been living feral on Bonaire for hundreds of years and many fall victim to terrible acts of abuse, road traffic accidents, illness, dehydration and sometimes starvation.

The charity has stepped in to help a local charity, Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire, to persuade the government of Bonaire to reconsider its plan to transport 200 feral donkeys to Haiti.

The donkeys would face an uncertain future in Haiti, with many of them likely to be put to work.

A Dutch couple set up Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire in 1993 to help save sick, wounded and orphaned foals. To date they have managed to save and care for 400 donkeys, but a further 200 are still roaming free on the island.

The Bonaire sanctuary believes that intense suffering and distress will result from the stress of travel to Haiti, combined with the lack of resources or expertise there to domesticate the wild donkeys.

Staff at Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire were due to meet government officials on July 25, but the government decided to hold an internal meeting instead.

Location of Bonaire in the Caribbean.
Location of Bonaire in the Caribbean.

Afterwards, officials contacted Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire to ask for more information on how the group thought the feral donkey problem could be solved.

The dialogue has raised hopes that the government is willing to co-operate with the local charity to find the best solution to the problem of feral donkeys on the island.

The issue has received media coverage in the Netherlands and in the Caribbean, and it is thought that this, along with a petition launched by The Donkey Sanctuary, has led to the Bonaire government deciding to consider other options.

In five days, 8015 people signed an emergency petition.

It was presented to the Bonaire government on July 16 by Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire, and copies were also sent to two members of the Dutch Party for Animals who have seats in the Dutch parliament.

The party then submitted written questions to the Dutch government, asking if they supported the plan and pointing out that there are alternative ways to control the feral donkeys.

Feral donkeys on Bonaire.
Feral donkeys on Bonaire. © Serge Melki

In another positive development, Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire is now putting up almost five kilometres of new fencing, with the labour costs partially paid for with a £9000 donation from the British charity.

Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire is home to more than 400 donkeys and the fencing is essential to keep them within its grounds so that they are safe from harm or harassment. Over the years the existing fencing had become old and rickety, and in need of replacement.

The Donkey Sanctuary’s director of international operations, Stephen Blakeway, was full of praise for the Bonaire charity.

“Through their extraordinary dedication and hard work, Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire have managed so far to take over 400 donkeys into care.

“They have been working towards taking all the donkeys into sanctuary so that they can live out their lives without coming into conflict with people or being harmed. The fencing is a fundamental reality of running a sanctuary and we feel it is our duty to help these donkeys – the grant will solve a huge problem for them.”

The Donkey Sanctuary supports projects in 28 countries worldwide and has provided several small grants to Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire in the last 15 years.


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3 thoughts on “Big effort to save wild island donkeys from servitude

  • August 2, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Thank you for sharing this with the public. Most on Bonaire were outraged to learn of this horrific ill thought out plan but later, it was revealed the donkeys may not have been going to be beasts of burden but traded for their meat in exchange for fruit trees. Will we know the truth, maybe not but for now, our animals are not going to Haiti, for now.

  • August 12, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    I understand that your donkeys are dear to you, but that’s not a reason to denigrate Haitians. Haitians don’t eat donkey meat. Most Haitian treat their farm animals with care; not everyone is fortunate enough to have a donkey. They may not be able to feed them properly, but they don’t abuse them.

    • December 5, 2013 at 12:29 pm

      I know this is much after the time but would “John” who wrote about the donkeys being cared for in Haiti be interested in having a conversation with someone who is interested in this matter?
      This has no political intent and I am with no organization just someone interested in donkey welfare.

      Thank You. kate


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