Bonaire’s donkeys are world famous. These free roaming, wild donkeys can be found roaming wild on the island and are a perfect “vacation memory” for our island visitors. But island residents also have much love for the island’s "historic donkeys".
In the last several years, the wild donkeys’ existence on the island has come under threat. Different groups have voiced and fought over their different opinions. Many of us have followed the discussion about the donkeys on social media, but some people and organizations have stepped up to protect the animal which has been part of Bonaire’s history and heritage for close to 500 years.
In the old days, the donkeys were brought to Bonaire and left in the wild as breeding stock. They were caught as needed and used as beasts of burden to help kunuku owners etc.. The wild donkeys found water at natural watering places and, being desert animals, they were able to survive through the dry seasons. The donkeys are an integral part of Bonaire, our eco-system, our heritage and have always been naturally free and wild. When man interfered, the problems started.
Natural water supplies were covered over and/or fenced in. Even though water basins were built at all the wells, Over time the basins broke due to poor maintenance. Thus, during dry seasons, many donkeys come to town where the water supply is greater. The donkeys search trash cans for food and enter yards to eat the vegetation. Most people do not blame the donkeys and take measures to secure their trash cans and close their gates, but others complain about the donkeys and see them as a nuisance. Traffic accidents, where cars were damaged and animals killed or wounded, have heated up the discussion even more.
In 2013, a contract to eliminate the donkeys was put into place. All the donkeys were to be caught, wounded and sick to killed. The males were castrated and placed back in the wild. Only the females and their young were kept and the young males were to be castrated when of age. The plan was to continue catching the animals until they were all castrated or in captivity, even after the contract ended. When foundations and organizations were alerted that 6 or more dead donkeys were being transported to the landfill, (over 100 in total). the situation was brought to the Island Council’s attention. According to an involved party, a study showed that donkeys would overpopulate
the island, but in the years to come, through the measures taken, there would no longer be any donkeys on Bonaire. After receiving this information, the various parties involved started to take action to protect the donkeys on Bonaire.
Bonaire Donkey Protection League
One of the active foundations is the Bonaire Donkey Protection League with its mission to protect and maintain Bonaire’s donkeys that have co-existed on Bonaire for close to 500 years.
In their view, the existence of the wild donkeys on Bonaire is important for the following reasons:
* The wild donkeys belong to the people as part of our natural heritage.
* The donkeys are intertwined in the history and culture of our people and our island.
* The donkeys have been part of our island landscape for close to 5 centuries.
* The donkeys have value for the tourism, culture and art of our island.
* For close to 500 years, the donkeys have been a naturalized species and have co-evolved with our ecosystem.
* The international community has asked our government to protect the Bonairean donkeys because of their genetics.
The challenges the League faces are:
* To protect the donkeys from the managed extinction currently in place.
* To provide alternate solutions, such as those used internationally, to the traffic problems instead of using an elimination contract as the solution.
* To provide facts regarding our donkeys instead of an agenda to eradicate Bonaire's donkeys for convenience, prejudice or personal gain.
Get back to Nature Plan
A draft plan, “Get Back to Nature”, has been submitted by Citizens for a Better, Safer and Animal Friendly Bonaire along with different individuals, professionals, and Bonaire foundations. The wild donkeys are part of this protection plan.
The plan is meant to bring a community solution to protecting, preserving and maintaining Bonaire’s unique landscape and natural heritage. The solution to conserving our wildlife and implementing a safe street situation requires a community wide effort. The final implementation can be crafted specifically for Bonaire with consideration for growth while maintaining nature and culture.
Our donkeys have been identified as a “unique genetic resource” and a “unique legacy from past generations”. Therefore, in the opinion of this collaborating group of individuals, organizations and professionals, we should immediately start working toward their conservation rather than their managed extinction.
The plan respects Bonaire and embraces our people, nature, culture, and worldwide reputation as an eco-friendly, conservation-minded island.
The “Get back to Nature Plan” has as its goal to develop a healthy “Wildlife Conservation Plan” for Bonaire with respect to our history, cultural heritage, people, and island reputation as a leader in conservation along with a motto of growing while protecting our nature and culture. The implementation of the plan would also further Bonaire’s reputation worldwide by protecting our donkeys and allowing organizations from around the world to come and study our special Bonairean donkey species.
The plan includes preservation and protection of our donkeys and all our wildlife by working to keep them away from town, off the roadways and providing them a safe haven in nature, the 80% of Bonaire that is uninhabited. It is important to increase public awareness so that people stop manipulating and harming wildlife and nature unintentionally and keep the animals’ water and grazing areas in nature.
The consortium is already in place, with a member of each interested party represented: a local historian, a culture representative, local people who study and know the land and its animals and scientific professionals - all of whom have compassion, concern and care for Bonaire’s nature, animals and culture. The group will work to tailor and further implement the following plan in a “best fit” approach for Bonaire as a whole. The We Care for Bonaire Foundation will supervise and support all operations.
This plan is the beginning of a large scale community effort to get the donkeys and all wildlife back to nature, without their day-to-day lives and patterns being manipulated by humans.
The action plan consists, among other things, of:
- Completing the repair of wells and reservoirs to benefit farmers, all wildlife and birds.
- Immediately removing the donkeys that are in critical danger zones and providing a safe haven for them in nature. (Some wells already have been completed, more being done).
- Implementing a traffic control plan to help make the roads safer for both humans and
- Launch education and media campaigns for residents and tourists.
- Establish a donkey adoption plan.
- Tourism Program Development to create jobs and give increased revenue to our people and add donkeys to existing heritage programs.
Many of the people of Bonaire have demonstrated their desire to keep donkeys in the wild. The citizens also see a need for, and deserve, a street safety plan that helps to keep our people safer on the roadways. Communications about and information for the public regarding the “Get Back to Nature” campaign is of importance. The collaborating group is of the opinion that we can develop a balance for Bonaire to benefit not only our people, our economy, our nature and our reputation, but also preserve our history, a unique cultural and natural heritage.
Do you have love for our donkeys, heritage, and nature preservation? You could play an active roll in preserving and protecting the donkey’s by investing some of your time to volunteer.
Phone: +599 785 22 05
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