The Donkeys of Bonaire
Visitors to Bonaire are often startled by the sight of donkeys lazily roaming about the landscape. In fact, these little equines are considered by islanders to be an integral part of the modern landscape of Bonaire.
Bonaire has no large indigenous species of mammals. Donkeys were imported to the island in the 1500s to serve the needs of Spanish colonists. They provided an effective means of transport and continued to be used for that purpose for the salt industry that eventually developed. With their minimal water requirements and ability to eat just about any vegetation, the animals proved well adapted to the arid environment. Later, when the salt industry became more mechanized and other forms of transport were introduced, the donkeys were left to wander. With no predators to deal with and little competition for the scrub and cactus that cover the island, the donkeys have survived, and their numbers have even increased over the years.
Today there are not as many wild donkeys roaming the island as there once were, as most have been moved to a sanctuary, but those still around charm tourists. Islanders often have a more tarnished view. Roaming about in search of food, donkeys will often push through fences and munch and stomp through ornamental plants. There have also been numerous injuries and a few deadly automobile accidents caused by donkeys wandering on the roads at night.
However, Bonaire's relationship with the ubiquitous quadrupeds seems destined to remain close for the foreseeable future. The donkey sanctuary established in the interior provides a safe home for wild donkeys, looks after ill donkeys, and cares for orphaned youngsters. The center has more than 400 donkeys in its care.
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