7 min read

'Zonkey' Saved From Slaughterhouse Just Met The Love Of His Life

“Zelda and Zonk are inseparable — they drink water together, eat together, rest together and play together" 💞

For years, Zonk, a zebra-donkey hybrid, served as a petting zoo’s main attraction, “Zonkzilla.”

Zonk had never met anyone of his kind, displayed as an oddity in a small dusty pen for all nine years of his life. When it came time for the petting zoo to replenish its livestock, Zonk was put up for auction. And as he traveled from one auction to another, his chance at freedom grew increasingly slim.

Zonkzilla at the petting zoo | Angela Welburn

To prevent Zonk from falling into the “slaughter pipeline,” where “kill buyers” purchase horses at auction with the sole purpose of sending them to slaughterhouses outside the country, a woman in Pennsylvania, who had been tracking Zonk online, purchased him. Once Zonk was brought back to health, she reached out to Angela Welburn, owner and operator of Integrity's Haven Equine Rescue in Nova Scotia, with a delightful proposition:

Would her resident rescue zonkey Zelda, perhaps, like a new friend?

“After he was cleared by the vets to travel to Canada, he was loaded up with two rescue mini-mules,” Welburn tells The Dodo. “They arrived here after a 16-hour drive.”

Zonk at the New Holland auction (pictured left), Zonk on his way to Canada, (pictured right) | Angela Welburn

It took a reported $10,000 in vet bills, housing and travel fees, but a year after he was sold at auction, Zonk finally arrived at his forever home in scenic Chester Basin, Nova Scotia.

Despite being freed from the constrictions of the trailer and tiny pens he was used to, Zonk was still not happy. “When he first showed up, his ears were constantly pinned, sad and perhaps even angry looking,” Welburn says.

Angela Welburn

All this changed when Zonk was introduced to 6-year-old Zelda, also the product of a male zebra and female donkey. Zelda had narrowly escaped danger earlier this year when she was found on a New Jersey feedlot destined for a slaughterhouse in Canada, CBC News reported. A Nova Scotian woman bought her for $800, and made arrangements to transport her to the safety of Integrity’s Haven. She was named after the video game character Princess Zelda, who also needed rescuing.

Though Zelda’s white and blonde coat is devoid of the stripes that cover Zonk, the two zonkeys look strikingly similar, and quickly formed a bond. “Now, Zelda and Zonk are inseparable, they drink water together, eat together, rest together and play together,” Welburn says.

Zonk and Zelda share a meal. | Angela Welburn

After just a week with Zelda, Zonk’s personality has completely transformed. “Now his ears are up, and he’s playing, running and kicking up his heels, and always looking for treats,” Welburn says. Zonk is once again strong and healthy, not afraid to show his “playful and curious” nature.

He has even proved to be a bit of a troublemaker. “In the week I have had the two of them together I have learned a lot just from watching their body language,” Welburn says. “These two zonkeys share the same needs as horses, but are so curious — always looking to get into a building and upsetting things or stealing things to play with (moreso Zonk than Zelda).”

Angela Welburn

Zonk now gets to run and play like never before, and the two zonkeys are constantly “playing tug-of-war with the horse balls and running around chasing each other in the field, with the two mini-donkeys running behind them,” Welburn says.

Zonk and Zelda spend every waking second together — and every snoozing second, too. “They sleep together,” Welburn says. “When in their stalls they lay bum-to-bum. When out in the paddocks one normally lays down, while the other stands close by. The odd time they can be seen lying together back-to-back or facing each other ... but the situation is still new.”

Angela Welburn

The zonkeys have not only improved each other’s lives, but also the life of their caretaker. “People think I rescue animals from being put down, and it’s true, I do,” Welburn says, “but these absolutely wonderful, courageous, smart animals keep me going.”

Angela Welburn

After 10 long years, Zonk is no longer alone in the world. At Integrity's Haven, among numerous other rescued horses, mules, donkeys and, yes, another zonkey, he is finally part of a herd, and it makes all the difference.

“I feel Zelda is happy to be alive and loved,” Welburn says. “Where Zonk is also happy, but he is more like a kid at Christmas time.”

To donate to Integrity's Haven Equine Rescue and help Zonk and Zelda, check out its website here.