Zelda the zonkey was supposed to die, but a kind-hearted Nova Scotian rescued the animal and offered her a new life in Canada.
Zelda is a hybrid of a male zebra who mated with a female donkey to create the zonkey. A few months ago, Zelda was on a feedlot in New Jersey on her way to a slaughterhouse in Canada.
"I found her on a rescue organizations page trying to find a home for her," says Ashleigh Benton, the Nova Scotian who rescued her. "She was destined for the slaughterhouse."
Benton quickly bought the zonkey from the New Jersey feedlot for $800 and then figured out how to get a zonkey into Canada.
Benton found a rescue organization in Maine willing to house her in the meantime, before bringing her over the border to her new home. She then set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for her transportation. Zelda also has her own Facebook page.
Zelda needed to be quarantined and have a medical examination done.
Zelda, who is named after a video game about rescuing Princess Zelda, arrived at the Integrity's Haven Rescue Centre in Chester Basin, N.S., last month.
Benton had to convince the horse rescue facility to take on such a strange animal.
"My first response was, 'A what?'" says Angela Welburn, the owner of the centre. "She said, 'A zonkey.' I said, 'No experience; fill me in.'"
Not quite zonkey enough
Zelda's exact origins are unknown, but both women say she was likely bred as a novelty. However, her stripes are not overly prominent. "I'm assuming that's how she ended up in the slaughter pipeline. She wasn't quite zonkey enough," says Benton.
Zelda's zebra blood means the cold Canadian winter is no treat for her and she hasn't yet learned to wear a blanket. When the barn doors open, she gallops to the only space in the pasture with green grass poking through the snow.
Welburn says she's very sweet, but definitely full of surprises.
"She's very, very powerful. I've rescued Belgian horses [that weigh] 2,000 pounds. Zelda is a lot stronger than that," says Welburn.
Benton left her GoFundMe page open to help handle the cost of food for Zelda. Welburn plans on doing right by Zelda, and giving her the life she deserves.
"Man made her and this farm will save her until death does us part," says Welburn.
After this experience, Benton is looking for investors and land to open her own equine rescue, with hopes of saving more slaughterhouse-bound animals like Zelda.