Thank you, Waikoloans and Friends of Nightingales, your support sustains me. Anika
Dear Waikoloa Donkey Project supporter,
I wanted to provide you with an update on the great news from Hawaii – and California – about the success of our donkey rescue and rehoming project thus far. To date, nearly 400 donkeys have been removed from harm, spared from the threat of starvation or lethal eradication – with over half placed in loving homes in Hawaii, and 119 transported to California, where Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue will care for them while they await adoption or transfer to permanent sanctuary, at Eagle Eye Sanctuary in Northern CA and HSUS’s Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in TX.
This transport, the largest phase of our project in terms of planning and resources involved, was many months in the making. The goal was to continue to rapidly reduce the numbers of donkeys in the wild in Waikoloa, and since the rate at which we were finding new adoptive homes in Hawaii was slowing, it was determined that the best way to quickly rehome a large number of donkeys was to find a rescue/sanctuary that could help. Throughout the project, our team had been consulting with Mark Meyers, head of Peaceful Valley, as he has been involved with many donkey rescue and rehoming projects. When asked, Mark agreed without hesitation to help us place as many donkeys on the mainland as we could send him.
So a large project to gather, transfer, treat, castrate and ship a plane full of donkeys to California was undertaken. The first step – passively gathering wild donkeys – proved to be the largest and most critical one. While trapping of the animals had been successful in previous months – due to the ongoing drought (which limited their access to forage and water, and enabled us to entice them with food and drink) – our first attempt (in February) to gather a large number in anticipation of a planned castration clinic was foiled by the weather. The winter rains came, which quickly began to again provide ample sustenance to the donkeys in the wild. Plans for the clinic were put on hold.
Undeterred, our team on the ground (comprised of rancher Stan Boteilho, adoption/placement expert extraordinaire Bird McIver/CB Horse Rescue, Dr. Brady Bergin and his staff) continued to monitor the situation, setting and checking traps when there was the slightest dry spell, and gathering, castrating, treating and rehoming the occasional group of hungry and curious donkeys – with the financial assistance of the HSUS and its generous supporters. Brady worked to find a secure holding area where the donkeys (for which homes in Hawaii could not be found) could be accumulated until enough were gathered to justify the vet clinic and subsequent airlift. He also negotiated with Pacific Airlift to provide air freight to California in the cargo hold of an entire specially-equipped 747 - at a very favorable rate.
As the summer months approached and things again began to dry up, the team could envision that by mid August, enough donkeys could be gathered to make a clinic and airlift worthwhile. Plans were again set in motion to prepare for the clinic, which involved the coordination of many local volunteers, and a team of equine vets and techs from Steinbeck Veterinary Clinic in Salinas, California, organized by the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. Among those on hand to help with the clinic was Hawaii State Senator Clayton Hee (a horseman now living on Oahu, who grew up in ranching on the Big Island).
In less than two days, on August 27th and 28th, 165 donkeys in total were processed, including 98 castrated jacks and 67 jennies. They were treated for parasites, checked for health concerns, and those bound for CA were microchipped and had blood drawn for Coggins tests (a requirement for entry into the state). The clinic went extremely smoothly, with a well-prepared team in place including over two dozen local volunteers and the vet/tech team from CA, which was happy to have had the opportunity to help with the project.
Following a couple weeks’ rest/recovery period, a total of 119 donkeys (77 jacks and 42 jennies) were transported to CA last weekend, on September 16th. A massive caravan of trucks and trailers carted them safely to Kona International Airport (where they were loaded by groups of 6 into large animal crates for boarding onto the aircraft) and were met - following an uneventful flight - at LAX by a similar caravan orchestrated by Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue. The entire group is settling into their new surroundings, where they’ll await adoption to good forever homes, or transfer to sanctuary.
The remainder of those treated during the clinic which stayed behind in Hawaii will be rehomed locally on the Big Island or neighbor islands (an Oahu rescue recently took 6). We continue to seek funding or a donation of land for the establishment of a permanent local sanctuary for the estimated 200+ donkeys remaining in the wild, but that support has not as yet been forthcoming. Alternative plans are to gradually continue to gather and treat those which are trapped by the rancher and rehome them locally, as adoptive homes can be found.
The following links provide further updates on this story, including HSUS president & CEO Wayne Pacelle’s blog from yesterday:
This project could not have been possible without the cooperation and support of local groups and individuals on the Big Island (our Hawaii state director Inga Gibson, Stan Boteilho, Anika Glass and Malama Waikoloa Nightingales, Bird McIver of CB Horse Rescue, and many other volunteers and community supporters), the heroic efforts of Dr. Brady Bergin and support of his spouse Tiffany, and the generosity of HSUS donors. Many thanks for your ongoing support for this life-saving project.