Donkeys Are Not Cute!

My wife loves donkeys. Heaven knows why, but she thinks they’re cute. Oh, sure, the baby donkeys bouncing around YouTube and FaceBook and sitting in people’s laps are sweet. But when it comes to a 150 kg beast with huge teeth and sharp, hard, hooves, I lose I a bit of interest. I mean, European shepherds traditionally kept a donkey or two around the flock to protect them from bears!

Some of the Caribbean islands have donkey problems. In the past, large numbers of donkeys were used as beasts of burden and power sources in farming, salt production, and other industries. With modernization, they were gradually phased out, and for a retirement package, they were given their freedom. Places like Aruba and Grand Turk ended up with large populations of semi-wild donkeys with no natural predators.

On Aruba, a group of local philanthropists set up a Donkey Sanctuary in the hills east of town, and now it has 300 donkeys and it’s a bit of a tourist attraction. It’s $US22 for a taxi ride out, $22 back, and if your driver happens to like donkeys, he joins you for the visit and doesn’t charge any waiting fee. I couldn’t help but notice that our driver spend a lot of time talking to the lady at the till, but who am I to judge? Whatever you do, don’t get dropped off. The taxi fare back to town goes way up!

Linda and I went, because she just had to see the donkeys. She has a right to her opinions. After all, I think logging horses are cute.

So, we bashed down this rough, narrow road through cactus-studded jungle, and there was the Donkey Sanctuary. Not much of a place: just a bunch of fences with donkeys basking in the sun. The entry was a double gate like they have at dog parks, and sure enough, there was a donkey right there with his nose at the latch. You can guarantee he wasn’t coming to greet us.

So we shoved him out of the way — donkeys don’t budge easily — skirted around the kicking zone at the rear and headed up to the “Reception,” a concrete building distinguished only by the circle of donkeys crowding around. I mean, what did I expect?

The way it works, the building floor is about half a metre off the ground with a railed balcony on the outside. Tourists buy a little can of food (Sorry, no carrots today) and walk around feeding each donkey as they go by. The donkeys line up and wait their turn (most of the time.) There’s always a couple that can’t force their way in, and they put up a fuss from farther out.

The only thing that keeps it organized is the feed that falls off your hand, and the donkey you just fed stays behind to get the rest of his snack off the floor.

My problem was that I was wearing my sailing shoes. The ones that I had worn splashing in the ocean the day before. Think salt water. So one of the donkeys, having finished his snack, decided to garnish it with a munch on my nice, salty shoe. Which happened to have my toe inside. He didn’t bite too hard, and I didn’t kick him in the jaw too hard, so we parted with mutual respect.

We were disappointed that there weren’t any cute little donkeyettes capering around, but apparently the gene pool is too small for breeding. They need to raise a bunch of money to do an exchange with one of the other islands. However, sex junkets for donkeys seem to be low on the priorities of the philanthropic public, so  there are no propagation plans in the immediate future.

So we sailed on, remembering Aruba, not for its haute couture (psycho bunny t-shirt: $US70) but for its donkeys. A much more appropriate image, I’d say. Cute, you know?

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