Hello all. Unfortunately, I have some pretty upsetting news to share with you this morning. Yesterday morning, a male juvenile donkey was found near the roadside after being hit by a car. The incident occurred near the Coral Bay overlook on Centerline Road and authorities were notified in the early morning hours by St. John residents who were unfortunate enough to witness the aftermath of the tragic event. This is the fifth donkey this year to have been killed by a vehicle on St. John. One in a year is one too many, but five is deplorable.
I don’t feel like anyone is blaming these tragic occurrences directly and solely on visitor traffic. We know that both taxis, trucks and residents can be just as negligent on our narrow and winding roadways! However, there are A LOT of visitor actions that feed into the donkey’s behaviors…With sometimes catastrophic results. The poor little guys and gals get comfortable and accustomed to vehicles and to people based on human behavior. When we feed the donkeys, pet them out of our car windows or otherwise make a vehicle or ourselves seem like a positive impact to an animal with easily learned behaviors (especially the babies!), we encourage their comfort level with the roads and the cars on them.
This seemingly innocent behavior on our part, results in a long lasting impact on the donkeys that can eventually lead to their demise.
I’ll spare you the graphic images that were posted on Facebook yesterday morning of the young donkey on the roadside with his mother still watching over him. But we need to elevate the conversation on this ongoing issue!. I generally try to keep things breezy, even when I’m trying to get a difficult point across. But there is nothing easy about this discussion and the information needs to be shared far and wide. I posted a PSA back in May about ways that we can better behave in respect to our favorite island furry friends. I believe it was just after another tragic report similar to this one.
The donkeys’ comfort level with the roadside and with vehicles can lead to an abrupt ending to their life! Think about it…If they see cars as nothing more than an apple or Dorito dispenser, they are going to be comfortable with approaching said vehicles on the road instead of having a healthy wariness of a motorized machine that, when moving at 20 MPH, could possibly kill them.
I’m not going to linger on this tragic news. But, instead, please take a serious look and contemplation over the list below of how we can be better humans to our donkey friends….
- DO NOT FEED THEM- This cannot be stressed enough. If humans or cars equal food in the donkey’s mind, they are going to spare no hesitancy in approaching either of the above. While a donkey on the trail eating an apple out of your hand can seem harmless, this seemingly innocent behavior makes a mark in the mind of the beast that will influence its future behaviors.
- Do not stop on the roads to take photos or pet them. Instead, consider carefully driving past while also leaning on the horn a bit. This new and startling noise may eventually devolve them from their comfort level with the roadways. We need to, as a team, start to make the donkeys fear us a bit in order to deescalate their positive associations with cars.
- DRIVE SLOW! As I mentioned, this is directed at ALL of us. Long time visitors, first time visitors, residents, taxi and truck drivers…ALL OF US. Keep left and keep your speed in the 20 MPH range. It’s incredibly difficult to see what may be around the corner of the narrow and winding roads on St. John. Take it easy and be a Sunday driver 🙂 Especially after dark!
- Leave it to the experts- If you witness an injured donkey on the road, the trail or the beach DO NOT TRY TO HELP. Instead, take careful note of your location (photos help too, but don’t get too close!) and contact St. John Wildlife Rehabilitation . They have a very informative page on their website that outlines who to contact as specified by the type of animal in distress.
- If you witness a donkey (or any other animal) being injured, try to get the license plate of the vehicle involved in the incident. Photos of the vehicle are always good too. Call the police with this information and report the animal and its location to St. John Rescue and Wildlife.
The BEST things that we can do are to act responsibly as individuals and to share this information so that others can do the same! I always say that unfortunately the folks who need to hear the message are not the ones paying attention. I generally feel like the readership of this site (that’s you!) has a desire to protect St. John and vacation responsibly. But, we need to get these very important messages out to those who don’t know where to look for it. The donkeys cannot speak for themselves so we need to do it for them!
If you truly want to have an interaction with some of St. John’s furry friends, also visit the Carolina Corral! Dana Bartlett cares for donkeys, horses, sheep, goats, dogs and more at this little domesticated wildlife sanctuary near Skinny Legs. You can treat yourself and your family to an immersive donkey experience which consists of three fun events with the donkeys leading them in sack race, obstacle course and pole bending. So you can experience some one on one time with the donkeys in a controlled and protected environment.
If you are interested in supporting protection of the wildlife on St. John, please consider St. John Wildlife Rehabilitation. There are many ways to donate your time, money or skillset, either short term or long term, in support of this very necessary organization that advocates for and supports St. John’s wildlife.