Rare Italian-born Baby Zonkey in Good Health

Ippo, a young zebra-donkey hybrid, is doing well at an Italian animal preserve.

ByABC News
July 25, 2013, 10:29 AM

July 25, 2013— -- One part zebra, one part donkey, all parts fuzzy and adorable. Ippo, the foal of a male zebra and a female donkey, was reported to be in good health, just a few days after it was born at an animal reserve in Florence, Italy.

The story of Ippo's birth reads like the equine equivalent of a romance novel. The father is a zebra that was adopted by the animal reserve after he was rescued from a failing zoo. The mother is a Donkey of Amiata, an endangered animal species.

Even though a fence separated the two animals at the animal reserve, the zebra climbed over and mated with the donkey, producing Ippo. Serena Aglietti, one of the employees at the reserve, said in a statement, "Ippo is the only one of her kind in Italy."

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However, Ippo isn't the only zonkey in the world. The Chestatee Wildlife Preserve in Georgia was site to the birth of its own zonkey on July 21, 2010. C.W. Wathen, the owner of the animal preserve, said that the zonkey (or zedonk) has been in good health since her birth.

"She's doing fine," Wathen told ABC News. She's easily spotted in a herd, with a light brown coat on most of her body but striped legs. However, she blends in socially with the other animals. "She's still like a child, so she just runs and plays around," said Wathen. "The other animals treat her like a member of the herd."

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Since zebras and donkeys are two different species of horses, their DNA and genetics don't quite match up. Even though the animals grow up healthy, they often aren't able to make offspring of their own.

"It's similar to when a female horse and a male donkey mate and give birth to a mule," said Robert Benson, a vetenarian who performed check ups and vaccinations on Pippi in her early years. Though there are records of mules successfully mating, the majority are sterile.

But just because animal can't reproduce doesn't mean its libido is gone. "The female still cycles and comes into heat," said Benson. "They can go through the motions and they have the parts. They just don't reproduce."