Pippi the zedonk with her mom Sarah (Photo by Gainesville Times, courtesy of Chestatee Wildlife Preserve)
“We’ve had donkey babies for years,” says CW Wathen, founder and manager of Chestatee Wildlife Preserve
45 minutes north of Atlanta. “This was the first time we’ve ever had a zedonk…and what a surprise!”
Surprise, indeed. This filly—a cross between her zebra dad and her donkey mom—is making headlines in her first two weeks of life at the 20-acre preserve. Wathen was there for her birth on July 21, and he’s still in awe of this little animal. “She’s just beautiful. There’s no way to describe it,” he says. “We’ve got many rare and beautiful animals but she has kind of taken over.”
The foal (they’re calling her Pippi Longstocking until she gets named through an upcoming contest) gets her caramel hair coloring from her donkey mom, Sara, and those leg stripes from her zebra pop, Zeke. Wathen knows Zeke is the dad because the he's the only male zebra in the place. Plus, he’s apparently owned up to his fatherhood. “He goes over to the fence with her. He protects her,” Wathen says.
Other than a distinguished outward physical appearance, Pippi won’t be all that different from her brothers and sisters. Except maybe her disposition, which could end up a mix of the two species. Wathen says he hopes she gets her mom’s personality. Zebras are skittish creatures, typically running with wildebeest herds to stay protected from predators; donkeys are laid back and relaxed, Wathen says.“Zebras are hard to handle,” he adds. (He should know. He’s been raising the black-and-white animals for 40 years, since he traded some miniature horses to get his first.)
No one really knows how Pippi will turn out. “Animals are just like humans. They’re all different,” Wathen says. “They’ve all got different personalities.” For now, she’s simply great to marvel at. For more information about the preserve, check the website at chestateewildlife.com
Where: Chestatee Wildlife Preserve
Address: 469 Old Dahlonega Highway, Dahlonega, Georgia (45 minutes north of Atlanta)
Hours: Open to the public 7 days a week, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Admission: $10 for adults, $5 for children 11 and younger
More information: The preserve accepts cash and checks only