What is a Kona Nightingale?

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The Kona nightingale is a breed of loose donkey found in the Kailua-Kona region of the Hawaiian Islands. Once a population of hundreds of worker donkeys roamed the area, today there are only about 33 Kona nightingales in the area. Efforts have been made to protect the remaining herd, closing off an area away from a nearby highway to protect animals and passing motorists. Some donkeys were also removed from the area to live on additional land set aside by a donkey committee.

Kona nightingales donkeys get their name from the sound they make. Families in the region used to have donkeys as pets and as workers. Often, a family could only afford a single donkey at a time, and the animals were lonely at night when the families went to bed. As a result, they began making a loud braying noise at night at other donkeys on neighboring farms. This earned them the name “Kona nightingale”, after the nocturnal songbird.

The area of ​​western Hawaii where Kona nightingales can be found is rapidly expanding in population and tourism. This has resulted in less habitat for the animals and numerous injuries and deaths of donkeys and people when the animals cross the nearby highway, particularly during dawn and dusk. Wandering donkeys are often difficult to see in the dark, which leaves them vulnerable to being run over by passing cars. In one case, a motorcyclist was killed when he hit a Kona nightingale at full speed on the dark road.

A donkey committee founded by neighboring schools came together to preserve this unique animal, raising funds for a large enclosure to keep the donkeys from wandering the road. This enclosure will keep the donkeys confined to a particular area, which is several acres in size. Passing drivers will also have the pleasure of watching the animals as they pass.

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Although donkeys are rarely kept as pets today, the citizens of Kailua-Kona are striving to keep the Kona nightingale in their area as part of their heritage. They avoided adding the paddock enclosure for as long as possible, but the increased traffic caused too great a risk.

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