When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily
Where: 469 Old Dahlonega Highway, Dahlonega
How much: $10 adults, $5 children 11 and younger; cash and check only
More info: 678-537-6765
DAHLONEGA — In all his years running the Chestatee Wildlife Preserve, C.W. Wathen has never seen it happen. But five days ago, a zedonk was born.
“The animals have been running (in the fields) together for more than 40 years, but this is the first time that this has happened here,” said Wathen, the preserve’s founder and general manager. “We never suspected that they (had mated), so it was quite a surprise when the zedonk was born.”
The animal is a mix between a zebra and donkey. With black stripes prominently displayed on her legs and face, her zebra heritage is readily apparent, but her slender face and spindly legs are more donkeylike.
“White tigers are more of our calling card, but this is one of the most unique animals that has ever been born here,” Wathen said.
While she was born to a donkey mother, the baby zedonk’s instincts are all zebra.
“Usually, a foal will lay over on its side, sunning itself,” Wathen said. “But the zedonk sits up at all time — like she’s on alert looking out for predators. She’s still got some of her wild instincts.”
Although it’s uncommon for donkeys and zebras to mate, it isn’t unheard of. In 2005, a zebra gave birth to a zedonk in Barbados, according to the news website, Science Daily. And in the 1970s, three zedonks were born at a European zoo to a donkey mother, according to the Colchester Zoo’s website.
In about two weeks, the 5-day-old zedonk will begin roaming the property with the rest of the animals — including a camel, a donkey sibling, her zebra father and a 40-year-old miniature donkey.
Once the zedonk gets a little older, Wathen said she’ll be able to go out for off-site visits like some of the other animals on the preserve.
“The kids (visiting the preserve) have been going crazy about the zedonk,” he said.
Other animals on the 25-acre nonprofit preserve include giant tortoises, colorful macaws, white tigers, black leopards and a 2-month-old wolf.
“We keep all the animals fed really well, so a lot of the animals that would normally be predators in the wild run together in the same areas here,” Wathen said. “In the wild they are competing for food, but here they don’t have to compete, so there’s no fighting.”