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Good Bye to Our Free Roaming Donkeys?

XpBonaire IslandLife Feature Story

Recently, the Bonaire Donkey Protection League once more called upon Bonaire’s residents and international animal lovers to protect the free roaming donkeys on Bonaire. In the Environmental Policy Plan 2020 - 2030, presented to the 2e Kamer (Second Chamber), the removal of all free roaming donkeys is allegedly necessary to combat erosion and runoff.[*1]

Citizens for a Better, Safer Animal Friendly Bonaire, the Bonaire Donkey Protection League (BDPLF) and many concerned people are asking the island government to call in an independent expert to evaluate the situation with a full impact study and to consider the alternative option offered by these concerned organizations: “Back to Nature, the Bonaire Donkey Salvation Plan.”

Some people are of the opinion that as long as the involved parties, who all in their own way and according to their convictions, have the best interest of the donkeys in mind, but who all have differing opinions, there will never be a solution.

Nuisance or part of Bonaire’s wildlife?

Some people perceive the donkeys as a nuisance because of:

1. Overpopulation

2. Annoyance to the community – entering yards, over-turning trash, eating plants in yards

3. Eating/destroying vegetation

4. Traffic safety/car accidents

While others feel protective about the free animal and are of the opinion that:

1. Most people on Bonaire love the donkeys and they are part of the culture.

2. They are an endangered species and need protection by international law.

3. Donkeys are a very important part of our tourism industry. The tourists who book tours on the island specifically ASK to see “the wild donkeys”.

4. The sight of free roaming donkeys makes Bonaire a little more special than other islands.

The organizations trying to protect the donkeys are offering a relocation plan to protect people, animals and the environment alike.

The Citizens for a Better Safer Bonaire, the Bonaire Donkey Protection League, We Care for Bonaire and many Bonairean citizens welcome the opportunity to meet with the government to explain their solution for Bonaire and its iconic Nubian donkey.

Goal - Back to Nature

In their opinion, despite the increase in human population, there is still ample space for donkeys in a controlled population to survive and thrive as family groups.

The donkeys are a big part of Bonaire’s cultural heritage and have coexisted with humans and even integrated into the daily fabric of life in an enjoyable and mutually enriching fashion. Additionally, the donkeys are a big part of our tourism value and are an artist’s and photographer’s dream. There are alternatives to systematically eliminating this natural treasure.

They point out that a fundamental tenant of population biology and ecosystem maintenance is, “NOTHING SHOULD BE REMOVED FROM AN ECOSYSTEM WITHOUT PROPER STUDIES.”


In their opinion, the donkeys contribute to the ecosystem in many ways. Citizens for a Better, Safer Animal Friendly Bonaire and the Bonaire Donkey Protection League studied the issues in consultation with experts in in wildlife, herd and land management before proposing proper humane solutions (reference: Bonaire Donkey Salvation Plan: Back to Nature).

In brief, the plan is to relocate the donkeys from the roads and town to safe areas where they can live in family groups. They will be monitored and the population controlled at a sustainable level that will not be an issue for Bonaire.

The present day nuisance factors are being attended to and managed through awareness. More will be achieved with education, prevention and monitoring.

A Brief Donkey History

- Donkeys first arrived in Bonaire in 1527. They were brought here by the Spanish and left in the wild as breeding stock.

- Due to the isolation of our island population, geneticists have shown through DNA testing that our Bonairean donkeys are the closest descendants to the African Wild Nubian Ass, listed on the red list as an endangered species and extinct in its homeland.

- When needed, some donkeys were taken as beasts of burden. They were domesticated for tasks such as carrying water, bringing corn and also used at the salinas. Some donkeys were also shipped to other islands for similar purposes. Many remained in the wild.

- The donkey population has been at a relatively stable number, averaging around 1000, with approximately 300 donkeys in the wild and 700 in the island’s sanctuary.

Do you want to protect the free roaming donkeys?

Many people on Bonaire know to call upon BDPL for advice and assistance on how to protect their property, trash bins or when they spot a free donkey in need. BDPL always takes immediate action to help where it is needed.

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[*1.] Environmental Policy Plan 2030: b) all wild grazing animals (i.e. goats and sheep, donkeys, pigs, cattle) are removed from Bonaire, Saba, and St. Eustatius (2030)

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