Ponui Island Donkeys

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SomesBirder
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Ponui Island Donkeys

Postby SomesBirder » Sun Apr 30, 2017 10:24 am

I am confused about the status of the Ponui Island donkeys. They are reputedly New Zealand's "only feral donkey breed", but the breed is not mentioned anywhere in either King's The Handbook of New Zealand Mammals (2nd edition, 2005) or King's A Photographic Guide to Mammals of New Zealand (2008). Even more confusingly, dogs were mentioned in the latter book as being excluded because all feral populations have gone extinct, so why was a similar caption not made about the donkeys? Can someone enlighten me on the subject?

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Neil Fitzgerald
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Re: Ponui Island Donkeys

Postby Neil Fitzgerald » Sun Apr 30, 2017 10:41 am

They are reputedly New Zealand's "only feral donkey breed"

My first question would be; what is the source of that statement?
SomesBirder
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Re: Ponui Island Donkeys

Postby SomesBirder » Sun Apr 30, 2017 11:38 am

Neil Fitzgerald wrote:
They are reputedly New Zealand's "only feral donkey breed"

My first question would be; what is the source of that statement?

This: https://www.rarebreeds.co.nz/ponui.html
I have no idea as to how reliable it is.

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David Riddell
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Re: Ponui Island Donkeys

Postby David Riddell » Mon May 01, 2017 9:31 am

The Auckland University Field Club did a trip to Ponui in August - September 1978 - I was a member of the club for several years though wasn't on that trip. The party carried out surveys of the island's vegetation, birds and archaeology, and while they didn't specifically look at introduced mammals they noted the presence of rats, cats and stoats and in a brief section on the island's history stated it was farmed, carrying about 8500 sheep and 1000 beef cattle. There's no mention of donkeys; the paper on vegetation states:
At present two thirds of the island is in pasture and many bushed areas, particularly the coastal valleys, are grazed. The remaining kauri forest and regenerating areas nearby are largely kept clear of cattle and sheep (except during harsh winters).

If donkeys had been present in 1978 I'm fairly sure they would have been mentioned. The issue of the club's journal, Tane, which contains the reports on Ponui, is available at http://www.thebookshelf.auckland.ac.nz/ ... ction=null - to see the individual papers, click on the 'Next' at the top right of the viewing pane.
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Re: Ponui Island Donkeys

Postby SomesBirder » Mon May 01, 2017 2:10 pm

Thanks, David.

Something else worth stating: the handbook even mentions that in 1870, Sir George Grey released two zebras on Kawau Island, where they obviously didn't last long.
Given this, even if Ponui Island had a donkey population that ceased to exist one way or another many decades ago, surely that would be worth mentioning as well?
Perhaps the Rare Breeds Society just made up the concept of the donkeys having a feral origin to make them seem more interesting.

-Somes
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Neil Fitzgerald
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Re: Ponui Island Donkeys

Postby Neil Fitzgerald » Tue May 02, 2017 4:21 pm

The handbook notes that established feral populations of domestic stock are included, but excluded are "controlled farm stock and pets (sheep, cattle, donkeys, horses, ...)".
I guess the Ponui donkeys were not considered established or feral enough.
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Re: Ponui Island Donkeys

Postby Byrd » Wed May 03, 2017 1:45 am

there's actually quite a bit of information about the donkeys on the internet. They are still on the island. Given how tame they are, I suspect that is the reason they are not considered as being an applicable feral population in the mammal handbook. It is also possible, of course, that the authors simply overlooked the donkeys' presence there.

They were registered as a breed by the Donkey and Mule Association of New Zealand, probably simply as a way to make it easier to preserve them, in the same way as the rare breeds people try to preserve Auckland Island pigs or Arapawa Island sheep. As domestics they may be useful for farming purposes because they have been isolated from other breeds for so long.
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Neil Fitzgerald
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Re: Ponui Island Donkeys

Postby Neil Fitzgerald » Wed May 03, 2017 12:24 pm

Kim King (mammal handbook editor) was unaware of them. Whether or not they qualify as a true feral population, the situation will hopefully be clarified and they may at least be mentioned in the next revision of the handbook. Good spotting Somes.
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