Zenkey foal a hybrid star
August 29, 2003
The zenkey snuggles up to its donkey mother at the Nasu Safari Park. Photo: AFP
A Japanese safari park says it will put a zebra-donkey hybrid, believed to be the world's only living "zenkey", on public view next week.
"As we keep herbivorous animals without separating them, the unbelievable can happen," said Osamu Ishikawa, deputy head of Nasu Safari Park, 150 kilometres north of Tokyo.
"A donkey was pregnant and everybody was expecting a donkey foal," he said, adding that keepers had been surprised to see a striped animal born on August 8.
The male foal, now weighing about 25 kilograms, has ears like a donkey and looks as if it is wearing striped leggings. It also has a black cross mark on its withers characteristic of donkey foals.
Although it is extremely rare, donkeys and zebras can produce offspring because they belong to the same horse family.
Nasu Safari Park has had a naturally-bred zenkey twice before, but they did not live long.
"One, born more than a decade ago, survived only for a few days and the second one died after less than two months," Mr Ishikawa said.
"They were relatively weak . . . but the baby this time is quite vigorous and leaping around. Though the chances are high that the zenkey is sterile."