Horse News

Update from Bonaire: MY HEART IS BROKEN

On-site report from Marjorie Farabee ~ Director of Wild Burro Affairs for Wild Horse Freedom Federation

“I was growing more upset by the moment as donkey after donkey appeared to surround us displaying various levels of medical or nutritional needs…”

On Tuesday March the 11th, I paid a visit to the Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire.  I was looking forward to the visit, and came with an open mind hoping that what I heard from the locals was simply exaggerated and could be fixed easily.  What I found, was much worse. I found donkeys in dire need of adequate food, shelter, medical care, and simple maintenance.

mf4After speaking to the Sanctuary supervisor, at the entrance I was startled to learn that they had killed (“only”) 68 donkeys since November out of 138 gathered.  The supervisor said “only” as if this word justified the killing. She claims that they all had tetanus and various other medical problems that made it necessary to send them to the landfill.  She also claimed there is no cure for tetanus, which is untrue.  If caught in time, a heavy dose of penicillin or anti-toxin at maximum strength offers hope to the stricken donkey.  She went on to describe how the Bonairean people did not care about the donkeys, and that they had set them on fire, stoned them, wrapped them in barbed wire and did other cruel things to them.  When I asked her if she had reported these things, she said, “no, the police don’t care, no one cares about the donkeys in Bonaire.” This did not ring true since I had been meeting with many Bonaireans who were clearly upset at what was happening to their donkeys.  So, it seems the Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire is slandering the native people of this island in order to gain financially from the sympathy they garner with these false statements.  This is a sad way to secure donations, in my view.

mf1I arrived with two guests, prior to the sanctuary opening their gate at 10 a.m.  Once we were allowed in, we visited the brightly painted and very neatly kept gift shop.  Everything seemed copacetic as we paid an entry fee and entered into the next area which was the enclosure for the sick, babies and new mothers.  Here she had a small building and a simple roof shelter to protect this group of donkeys.  As I walked through, I noted that the stalls intended for the very sick allowed all the donkeys in the yard to come and muzzle the patient inside the stall.  Should that patient have had any illness such as strangles or the flu, an epidemic would start that would result in a loss of many lives.  One of the few stalls available was actually being used for storage instead of needed medical space. Since the only vaccines that are given, according to the supervisor, are tetanus shots every eight years all of the donkeys are at risk should an outbreak of illness occur.  These donkeys are pushed into unnaturally close proximity to each other now stand unprotected from all of the new donkeys being added to the population without quarantine.  I was shocked. It is standard sanctuary practice to quarantine for a minimum of 14 days prior to introduction of new members to a herd.

As I walked around in this enclosure I noted that the donkeys seem depressed and defeated, and many had diarrhea.  One baby had vet wrap applied directly to his leg, minus any barrier of cotton beneath which will, of course cause tremendous irritation.  I also noted that the area was full of stones and debris no one bothered to remove which offered few places of relative comfort to lie down.  Because no precautions had been taken to wrap the native trees in such a confined area the foliage was stripped bare giving the impression of a bone yard.  I enjoyed hugging the babies and scratching their itchy bottoms very much.  Baby donkeys are the cutest animal in the world, in my opinion.  And these seemed to be in fairly good shape although they had very low energy for babies.  However, I was most concerned that they were placed next to the stalls meant for the sick without consideration for the spread of disease.    In addition to the unusually low energy displayed by the babies I also noted that the jennies (females) also appeared to lack energy even though this was early in the day.

The next part of the visit was by car through the 140 acre “sanctuary”.  The barren earth was testament to the overcrowding as swarms of donkeys approached the truck we were in.  We began to take note of a large number of very thin and emaciated donkeys mixed with healthier, stronger donkeys all vying for attention as they came in front of our vehicle forcing us to a stop.   As I looked closer at these forlorn beggars I noted many skin disorders, including many who displayed signs of mineral imbalances and deficiencies.  There were several donkeys losing hair on their tails and mane areas which is an indicator of a mineral imbalance or deficiency.  Many had wounds that could have been ringworm, mites or lice and I saw several eating dirt and manure which is called Pica a behavior displayed when nutritional needs are not being met.

It troubled me greatly with my experience as the equine manager overseeing more than 400 donkeys, mules and horses that people were allowed and encouraged to bring their own food to feed to the donkeys.  There was no oversight or instruction as to what might harm the donkeys if it were fed to them.  And, knowing donkeys as I do, I was alarmed that people were being encouraged to bring food inside the enclosure to feed to the donkeys when I know how competitive they can be for treats, especially when they are hungry. No one from the sanctuary was present to monitor the guests as they toured the sanctuary.  This lack of oversight could lead to injury to a guest or one of the donkeys.

mf2We had arrived before the gate opened, so when it opened at 10 am they should have still had hay available to eat in their hay racks.  The approximately 20 small hay racks that I saw were all void of hay, and I did not see a round bale any easily accessed hay anywhere to provide healthy forage to these donkeys throughout the day on this completely barren land.  It was shocking really.  Alarmingly, I did not see any kind of shelter in this enclosure of dirt and rock.  Nor was there any kind of natural protection such as what they would seek out in the wild. The fact that they are desert animals well suited to arid climates and soils does not mean that they can go without shelter.  In the wild they seek shelter such as cliff edges, gullies or trees.  At the “Sanctuary” they are left to the elements.

I wanted to find the water source for these donkeys so we drove through the opening of the first large enclosure containing bare dirt into the second large enclosure which remained opened allowing the donkey’s access to both.  The second open enclosure had a large fenced off building that the donkeys could not access unless personnel opened the gate.  As we drove through we found more painfully thin donkeys and some kind of a tall weed that they would not eat.  In this enclosure should a donkey get sick and die they would never know.

The supervisor we spoke to when we first arrived made it clear that the small animal veterinarian is not called for most illnesses.  She said they cannot afford a veterinarian.  Generally, the veterinarian is only called for euthanasia of animals they don’t feel they can afford to treat, and for castration of the intact jacks that are being brought in due to the $20.00 bounty she is offering for each.  I did learn at a recent meeting with Island council that they were euthanizing the donkeys for mange and old age, a practice they have been asked to stop.

The fact that any animals were euthanized because they had a treatable mite infestation is really cruel.  But, I am even more disturbed that the herd knowledge held by the seniors is not recognized.  Without the seniors the youngsters lack guidance.  The seniors know how to stay safe, they know where to find water during dry spells, and they control population growth with an understanding of the conditions on the island that allow for plant growth.  It is an egregious error to not recognize the importance of the senior donkeys to the health of the herd as a whole.   Fortunately, it is my understanding is that they are no longer allowed to kill the old donkeys who come into the sanctuary, but it is suspicious that the old ones are castrated and turned out in areas where there is absolutely no chance they will find water.

Castration of males at the “sanctuary” is carried out by a local small animal veterinarian and based on reports from the local Bonaireans some are being found dead in their fields.  I am not surprised since castration of donkeys is extremely dangerous even with the skilled hands of a large animal veterinarian performing the surgery.  My veterinarian explained to me that because donkeys have a much larger vascular blood supply running through the scrotum area they must be ligated and stitched after surgery.  Additionally, great care must be taken with anesthesia since donkeys often have an adverse reaction to these drugs.  Therefore, he keeps donkeys under supervision for a week to watch for infection or bleeding before he feels they are safely on the road to recovery.  This is important since it is not unusual for donkeys to blowout stitches which will result in them bleeding out.  The Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire castrates donkeys, and within 24 hours they are tagged and released into areas where they are often unable to gain access to food or water.  I came across a thirsty elderly recently castrated male in the middle of the Cargill salt processing area.  His tongue was hanging out, and he seemed very weak although his body condition was fair.

mf6I was growing more upset by the moment as donkey after donkey appeared to surround us displaying various levels of medical or nutritional needs.  Eventually, we finally found the fresh water source for the donkeys, but we also ran into an unpleasant surprise.  Inside the straight-sided water tank floated a dead baby goat.  The water was full of algae, and no wildlife ladder was present inside the tank.  A carcass floating in the water posed the risk of infecting everyone with botulism as well as a whole host of other infectious diseases.  When we informed the personnel at the front that there was a dead goat in the water, the response we got was, “again!”  Knowing that they are in an arid country where other wildlife would seek out this water source should have alerted them that a wildlife ladder was needed in the tank.

We also visited a tower that had been recently constructed to provide visitors a means to climb up and look around at the sanctuary from a different perspective.  There was some shelter provided underneath of it, but certainly not enough to accommodate all 400 donkeys at the sanctuary.  As I looked down from the height of the tower, I realized that we had come across a feeding area.  The donkeys were being fed cardboard.  It was awful to witness as they pushed each other away to get to the “food” their bodies so desperately needed. Not only does the cardboard lack nutritional value, this cardboard was dyed various colors which meant the donkeys were being fed harmful chemicals.

Then, a yearling jenny appeared at our window with a very swollen cheek.  I did not examine inside her mouth so I could not tell the source of her problem.  It certainly needed attention from a veterinarian in my opinion.  My suspicion was that it was a dental issue that should be addressed.  I felt very disheartened to leave her and many of the others there, knowing they were more than likely not going to get the care they needed.  So many were so thin, they soon would become recumbent since they were not separated from the stronger ones to eat.  By this time, my heart was already breaking as I felt their hopelessness.  It shook me to the core to witness what I witnessed at this “sanctuary” from hell.

Just when I thought I had seen the worst of it, I saw the feed ration for the evening and realized it was only enough for 50-75 donkeys.  Included in their ration for the evening were fruits and vegetables collected for the donkeys.  These are nutritional and I am sure the donkeys loved getting them. However, there were also extremely hot peppers in the mix too, and many fruits and vegetables that were very rotten.  I had to leave at this point.

It was clear to me that many of the sweet faces I saw on Tuesday would not be there for very long.  Their condition is deteriorating rapidly with no relief in sight.  How sad that these once healthy wild donkeys were “saved from the people of Bonaire” so that they could be brought to this concentration camp to die.  To read Ms. Melis’ facebook page, one would believe that the people of Bonaire are cruel and uncaring.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

The people of Bonaire need a sanctuary where the injured, weak, and nuisance donkeys can be brought for care.  There is a place for a properly run, well managed sanctuary here. The Bonaireans believed that Ms. Melis was going to provide that care.  What they did not realize was that her plan went beyond the injured, weak, and nuisance donkeys and morphed into a plan in which she would control the entire population of Bonaire’s donkeys.  It was confirmed at the island council meeting that breeding at the sanctuary would occur there, and all the wild donkeys would be gone in 10 years’ time. The insanity of it all is that the present management of Bonaire Donkey Sanctuary cannot care for the ones she has much less take in more.  It begs the question, why?  My answer is incompetence and a need for a professional to take over the duties of the sanctuary.

It defies logic to save those who do not need to be saved, lock them up, and then manage them with a complete lack of care.  This is called hoarding when a person collects and “saves” animals they cannot care for properly.  I would argue these donkeys need to be saved from her.  My heart is broken.

Marjorie Farabee, equine manager

Todd Mission Ranch

Home to: TMR Rescue, Inc.

After many years of operation, Todd Mission Ranch realized the need to offer a safe landing for equine who found themselves in unsafe situations.  So we opened TMR Rescue, Inc. to care for those that we could.  We are now caring for over 400 donkeys, mules and horses with 90% of those being donkeys.  I have been the equine manager for 8 years.  We are always happy to provide tours should anyone request it.  We enjoy showing off our extended family.

Please feel free to check out our web page at or contact me directly at

As for  speaking to the issue of the wild burros of Bonaire, I have been involved with the wild burro issues in the USA for 7 years.  My work has taken me into the field where I have studied their behavior and I have accumulated mountains of research on burros (donkeys) and their habitats.  I am frequently asked to speak at events including the upcoming International Equine Conference held in Wellington FL in Sept of this year.  I am now on the board of directors with Wild Horse Freedom Federation and act as Director of Wild Burro Affairs with this organization.  In addition, I am the President of Wild Burro Protection League.   In 2012 we were successful in gathering 113,000 signatures to stop Texas Parks and Wildlife Department from shooting wild burros.  This petition has now accumulated over 138,000 signatures, which I believe speaks to the value of donkeys to people.  Those who love them love them deeply.  Please consider the eradication of Bonaire’s donkeys as the assault that it is on the environment, the culture, and the psychology of the people of Bonaire.  It is a decision that could have deep consequences to all concerned.  The donkeys are an asset, and if they are promoted and treated as such, respect for them will follow.

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46 replies »

    • This woman receives thousands of dollars (from the gov. and donations) to care for the donkeys. Yet she doesn’t even buy enough hay to keep them alive. Can’t the Bonaire gov. be contacted to audit her books? She is an embezzler of Bonaire gov. and donation money. I’m sure that country has rules against fraud.

      Our BLM has the SAME poor care, obvious to many, BLM and this Bonaire woman want the horses to die = higher money savings. This Bonaire woman may also be a source of donkey meat to countries like Africa, that has started to promote eating equine/donkeys recently. (this year)


    • I am in conversation with Christopher Gill and hopefully Allan Savory will get back with me soon. I believe this island will be well suited for Holistic Range Management which is close to the same thing. It is more controlled though because it incorporates time grazing.


    • It is a foundation with only Marina Melis and her husband on the board. They do not have to disclose financials as a matter of Dutch law for a foundation. She is getting very rich off of these donkeys. She is funded by groups all over the world inclucing my beloved Donkey Sanctuary UK who believes her stories. For 20 years she has controlled the message and gained support because of what she says, but her stories are not the truth. She slanders the very people who truly want to protect the donkeys. She claims she must take them in to save them from traffic, but then puts the boys out 24 hours after castration. No one has blamed the traffic department or spacial planning for not addressing safety through signs, warnings and flashing lights. Donkey crossing points are well known by Bonaireans, yet there are no warnings or speed bumps at these points.


  1. Intrinsic value is the value of something in and for itself, irrespective of its utility for someone else. It appears these donkeys have little or no value to the owner of the sanctuary – my heart also breaks.


  2. This is truly sickening. Very hard to read and not come away thinking what is wrong with these people to turn a blind eye to all of this.


    • Michelle this what the Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire says is happening at the hands of the Bonaireans, however when we asked for police reports none were filed and there is no record of that. She says they are hit by cars 3-5 times a week, records we looked at say 3-5 times a month. She keeps saying these stories and generating help for herself because of sympathy for the animals based on lies or part truths. It is really upsetting, especially now that I have spoken to Bonaireans. They are the ones who have given me passionate answers about keeping the Donkeys for their children


  3. I’ve read many horror stories about some terrible situations for animals but I think this one is the worst. Something has to be done before it’s to late.
    Marjorie you have so strong to be able to witness this and then write about it. Hope that help will come and somehow the donkeys will survive.


    • We are trying to organize the people opposed to this and seeking real advice from a very wise man here who must remain unnamed for a recommendation for a person who can liaison all that needs to be done here. We have looked to see what the problems are, have identified the most prescient and have proposed solutions to them. It will require many steps to get to where we want to go, which is to establish the buritu (donkey) of Bonaire as having intangible cultural value to the people who were born here. We are waiting for final results from DNA to confirm them to be Nubian ass of a very pure line. The first results were very promising. If so, this is the ONLY living herd of wild Nubian Ass IN THE WORLD. They went extinct in the early 1950’s. Because extinction is assumed they are still listed on the IUCN list: CR (critically endangered) So WE are the SOMEONES who are doing SOMETHING because it needed to be done. This was all that was needed, now we have a whole lot of someones stepping forward, and it is so welcome! The truth just needed to be known, the good people here will continue the fight with full support from Wild Burro Protection League and Wild Horse Freedom Federation. This is too important to not support. Now, you know why this American girl is in Bonaire to save a unjustly sentences herd of wild donkeys. Please sign our petition!


  4. I don’t even know what to say…to think that this is going on and these wonderful animals are suffering as they are is beyond imagination…


    • Athena, everyone can help here by signing our petition; in the comment above this I posted a link. Everyone here could write to the Tourism Office in Bonaire. They want the burros to stay and need your KINDLY written letters pointing out how you would like to see wild burros when you come.


  5. Hoarders r the most.difficult as they.have surrwal beliefs they.and only they have the ability to take care of the animals. This Requires intervention,fast. AND people who hoard turn against those that try to help, so she needs some help big time for herself sounds like. And last, this is BLM on steroids. If America never had horse advocates, could u imagine what they would look like?


    • Some of my worst cases at our rescue (TMR Rescue, Inc) involved people who described their donkeys as their “baby”. I brought one back to TMR who I had to actually pay people to carry him onto the trailer, because he was not able to get up. The woman looked at me and called him her baby, and said, “I didn’t know he was starving”. She lived 50 ft from where he lay in the dirt churning circles in the ground. I am proud to say, he is a handsome boy today. It was sad, because I knew she felt it. Scary, because I know there are many like her out there.


  6. These people should be removed and people that care for these animals replace them. My heart breaks for these animals. Can one of our California donkey rescues come to their aid? I have horses that I have saved at a sanctuary in Southern California and she has six donkeys. I love them and they love the humans that greet and hug them. This sanctuary MUST be saved for the donkeys sake. Please someone, if you can, take over here and give these animals the love and nutrition that is necessary for them to live the rest of their lives in peace and in a healthy condition. The people running this place is intentionally killing these donkeys. It breaks my heart to hear that these people are so heartless and can look at these donkeys every day and not give a d___ for them. These people should be put in jail and given the same treatment.


  7. More questions.
    WHERE is the $20 per each “intact jack brought in” coming from, when there is not enough money for the NECESSARY expenses?
    …….” castration of the intact jacks that are being brought in due to the $20.00 bounty she is offering for each.”


    • When Marina Melis signed the contract with the Government they agreed to give her $200,000. when they were all caught, and they would support them for 10 years. She gets money from the Donkey Sanctuary UK, PETA, The Netherlands for some kind of nature fund and other orgs that give her money too. PLUS, she charges $7.00 per person to come into her Safari Park. It is horrible. This is pure exploitation of the donkeys and the Bonairean people.


  8. The Caribbean is a beautiful but brutal place for animals. It broke my heart, too. So much unkindness is amazing, isn’t it?


  9. This staff needs to be gone and people trained in nutrition, diseases of equines and just basic equine health need to take their place. Certainly there must be a Bonairean who would run this sanctuary with more skill and pride than the current director. i’m sure that enough money could be found to fly this person to an exemplary Donkey Sanctuary or two so that they could be properly educated in donkey health and equine management. As for the donkeys themselves, it sounds as though they could use a philanthropic angel. Surely there has to be a millionaire or a billionaire that could be persuaded to take an interest in these donkeys. They seem to be interested in everything else.

    Maybe we need an elevator pitch for donkeys’ and horses’ health and welfare:


    • Susan Crane-Sundell@sabaahslight We are seeking a Bonairean who can work with everyone who will need to be involved in this. The solutions will require steps to implement. We need to have a person who is committed to this cause, understands science, (Invasion Biologists need not apply), is committed to the representing the Bonairean culture and people in a positive light, and coordinate what is going on with the process of re-wilding many we intend to have taken out of the sanctuary and moving to reserve land. Wells, will be installed, others repaired, and native grass and forbes will be planted where we want them to stay. There is a place for a sanctuary. But, what Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire has become is a far cry from what it started out being 20 years ago. It was a place for wounded, sick, or orphaned donkeys to go. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line these people went to the dark side. They have fooled a lot of good people for a long time. Because you have to look closely to see what is going on.



    In case this link does not work, enter international invasive species compendium and when the page comes us enter Equus asinus. There is no listing for this island, but the two locations in the Caribbean are both list the Equus a sinus as an invasive species.

    What this means is that Melis gathered those donkeys up with the specific intent to kill they all and make it appear as if they died of natural causes. There is no evidence at all that there is a single practice or behavior by manaement that is intended to do anything other than to expose the animals to disease in order to kill them.

    Our problem is that we don’t think like evil people do. This has made it particularly challenging to read articles describing different modes of eradication for burros. The people behind thiis know that the public would go nuts if they took out guns and began to shoot the donkeys, so they are doing this through negligent care—just as the BLM has done here when it scheduled round-ups over frozen tundra and rocks at the beginning of foaling season, fed contaminated hay to horses at prisons, refuse to provide shelter for the animals comfort. The Burns rider that coincided with the coming into force of the 1997 International Plant Protection Act in October 2005 was not about harvesting wild horses for food; it was about killing as many of them as possible. This may be why the AVMA added a section to their euthanasia policy stating that horse slaughter is not an appropriate method of population control.

    So they state that all the donkeys will be gone in 10 years. What a tragedy, and it started right here in the United States when FWS, The Nature Conservancy, and the IUCN couldn’t get species living on public lands in the West removed through the 1976 FLMPA or Presdient Carter’s E.O. 11987. And when the President Bush did not sign the UN CBD, we elected a President who would. President Clinton was inaugerated in January 1993 and signed the UN CBD on June 4, 1993. When the Senate did not vote to ratify the treaty, the Clinton administration knowing that Article 8 (h) had been written into the 1997 International Plant Protection Convention, supported the ratification of the treaty that for the first time included the word animal as a pest of plants. The Senate probably thought the treaty referred to rats, snakes, nutria, stout, etc. God help them if they knew that it included our wild horses and they were complicit in this madness.

    Make no mistake. According to the OTA F- 565, 1993, the invention of the native (good) non-native (bad) paradigm of plants and animals were products of people that grew up here in this country that found the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act–inconvenient to them. They have worked from inside out government to get this done. They know that their non-native horse and burro theory is false, but they simply do not care—-because they do not care about science. They are using science to tell people what animals they can and cannot have.

    The people that have pulled this off are anything but stupid; they are cunning, far too cunning to have included the Bureau of Land Management in any of the plans for the annihilation of the American horse and burro. If they had included the BLM, it is likely that some dogged reporters would have sniffed this out a long time ago. The only place the BLM mimics the language or issues raised in the alien, invasive horse construct is in a series of Resource Notes originallly published by the National Science and Technology Assessment (another agency that does not exist). In these topics the BLM and their experts discuss some of the questions raised in the IUCN’s work like “What species should be saved?”

    The amount of planning and coordinated execution of this evil is difficult to get your mind around. Certainly, there are some people that might be true believers, and were not perhaps well enough educated to understand that at the minimum, the authors should list a valid source.

    The invasive species compendium’s “expert” source for the origin of the horse is Ryden who wrote the non-fiction book “The Last Mustangs”—-probably right after the biologist mythologist told him that they were alien species.” A non-fiction book would not be considered a relaiable, valid source for the origin of the horse. No doubt the CABI is hard pressed to come up with a real scientist (and I do not mean the type of wildlife scientists that FWS digs up) that studies genetics,macrofossils, that would be willing to put his career on the line to be the source for this fiction.


    • You would be interested in reading our scoping document we submitted to the island council. Now we are challenging the ministry of Infrastructure and Environment here who compared the donkeys to the pythons loose on Aruba. He was a rabid invasion biologist and very arrogant. I am going to the Netherlands in two weeks to visit with the Ministry of infrastructure and Environment at the Hague to ask them to stop the eradication and provide money for safety devices and a reserve instead.


      • Good for you. In the NAS Report on the BLM’s Management of the WHBP, one of the responses of the scientists was that they failed to understand why it mattered what the origin of the horse is—which is another way of saying that this is a scientifically irrelevant factor. Furthermore, between the lines of the much of the large mammal extinction research as hypothesis after hypothesis has been disproven, is a growing awareness of how mammals continuously crossed land bridges from continent to continent carrying the spores and seeds of plants with them and spreading species from one continent to the next. Every hypothesis regarding the cause of North America horse extinction that these rabid invasive species scientists have promoted has been subjected to the scientific method and disproven by evidence. One of the most significant concerns I have had after studying some of the specific species targeted including the horse is that the scientists do not seem to understand the difference between a species and a subspecies—this could have desvasting consequences. Furthermore, it is possible that these same people of at least some of them have been consultants on the Endangered Species Act, and trying to prevent two subspecies from breeding with other in order to keep all members of the subspecies count as a species is simply an impossible task unless you are going to force them all into a four walled chicken wire fence with a chicken wire ceiling.

        One of the tricks that those writing about the horse were trying to use was to refer to North America’s ancient horses as Equus ferus. Equus ferus is not a species, and when I first saw this in the November 2, 2011, report in nature I went straight to the GenBank and other taxonomies, entered the term, and had the the result of “no matches found.” return. Although the scientist referred to in the NAS Report has been sent out on a taxonomic comacausy mission to try to find some anomaly in the gene sequence that could disprove that the ancient species of the American horse was Equus caballus, I think that you will have sufficient information to prove based on the North American origin of the horse alone that the TNC & IUCN partners of FWS did not even bother to check what the origins of the species they claimed were not native may have been.

        You do good work. You will represent our long eared blessings very well.


  11. Sorry, all of this is very disheartening and I do not see a solution. What can be done? Have the DNA tests come back as it was believed these donkeys are from 5,000 year old stock – that cannot be an invasive species rather a Native Species.

    I am impatient. What can we do now?


    • Look at one of the comments above where I listed a petition. Please sign it and share it to get more signatures. Write or call the tourism office in Bonaire to say how much you would like to wildlife especially donkeys when you visit Bonaire. They need those comments to take any kind of stand about the donkeys. Presently, they are not committed, but they are sympathetic to our cause.


  12. What you are looking at is a third world country. Any donations go directly into the managers pockets. They don’t buy hay because they don’t consider the animals worth feeding. This is typical of all third world countries when it comes to animals, Mexico comes to mind since its right next door. I believe that every organization that tries to help teach the locals how to feed their small horses or donkeys so as to keep them able to pull their overloaded carts really don’t get anywhere. It looks at first like things are getting better but a closer look and you begin to see nothing has changed. Its a shame but that’s the way it is.


    • Barbara, unfortunately this thinking is exactly why Dutch born Marina Melis has been able to pull off influencing people from around the world to support her. The Bonaireans treat their donkeys well. There is no over-loading or over-work. These are wild donkeys. Since the Sanctuary is now built close to town, because she has gathered most of the island’s females, and because they are castrating and turning them back out onto the streets, Melis claims she has a plan. She caused the problem but she says she can save the buriko from the Bonaireans. The Bonaireans are simply being falsely accused so she can get simpathy and backing for taking them out of the wild.


  13. Bank of the Netherlands funded the Global Invasive Species Programme from 2007 to 2009. She is probably a tool of some sort sent there for the specific purpose of eradicating the burros without being too obvious about it–sort of like when Sen’s Burns and Reid send 10’s of thousands of wild horses and burros in this country to slaughter in 2005 after the International Plant Protection Convention went into force.


  14. Thank You, Marjorie. I asked what we could do and you told me. I have done it. I have asked several hundred friends by email and Facebook to sign your petition and it was the pleasure of my day.

    I love these donkeys as all donkeys, yet, these Bonarian donkeys are the most beautiful I think I have ever seen. They are long eared and beige. Remarkable!

    Please keep us informed as to the results of your efforts and the DNA results. Again, dear lady, thank you so very much.


  15. My husband and I visited this sanctuary several years ago during a scuba diving trip. I never forgot the visit. At that time the donkeys appeared to be in good condition. It is disturbing to hear about such decline and misdirection. I will sign the petition.

    Thank you for letting us know about the situation.


  16. I cannot believe how she make us (local people) and Bonaire look so bad with all of these lies. It’s a shame. Thank you for sharing this untold story and letting people know what is going on.


  17. This is really disgusting.Shame on you, Marina.THE government and THE people of Bonaire must read this article. Thank you for sharing.


  18. The simple thing Maria Melis is interested in is putting money in her pocket. She has been doing that since day one when she started exploiting the donkeys. If you hear how she talks about the people from Bonaire telling tourist what they do to the donkeys lying and almost crying just to get more donation. What she’ a doing is so cruel is not only breaking the heart of many people just simply wants to make you cry.


  19. So what’s being done? Stop talking and do something. Contact PETA and Donkey Sanctuary. Blog about it, write about it. I have heard both sides of the story for years and years. Marina’s side is one of concern and clear commitment. Others have similar stories of the author. I do know many locals do NOT want the donkeys here. Some of my most intelligent educated Bonairean friends supported the plan to shop the donkeys to Haiti (ya, that was a real plan set in place by a Bonairean goverment official). I truly don’t know what to believe anymore.


  20. just a word of caution…be informed and know all the facts before you respond..there are many people at the Sanctuary who love and care for the animals. If respected organizations such as PETA and Pegasus and others fund this organization, they must be making these financial decisions based on facts….again, I am an outsider so don’t know the true facts……


  21. I just signed the petition “Mr. Jeroen Recourt: STOP the INHUMANE CONTRACT that is eliminating Bonaire’s wild donkeys! We need to protect our culture and nature, not kill it off! ” on’s important. Will you sign it too? Here’s the link:


  22. I lived in Bonaire for two years. Majority of people on the island treat their home and their animals like garbage. Wild cats and dogs are everywhere and extremely malnourished and scared. Many are hit by vehicles or simply abused by their owners. The same goes for the wild donkeys and goats. Majority of people in Bonaire, are concerned with financial gain, THAT IS IT! Money is their number 1 driving force. This article saddens me, but doesn’t surprise me. I know this seems like an attack on the people of Bonaire, but I would just like to reiterate that I have witnessed the animal abuse first hand. With that being said, there are several people I was in contact with in Bonaire, that were very nice and not like the ones mentioned in this article.


    • SB this has not been my experience with the Bonairean people. But, of course, just like anywhere in the world there are those with cruel hearts, who need to be prosecuted. I find it unfortunate that you choose to paint an entire population with these traits because you had a bad experience with a few.
      Let me be clear, my article is about what I witnessed first hand at the sanctuary run by Ms. Melis who is a Dutch National.


  23. After reading all of this, visiting the sanctuary and having met Marina and the volunteers working there, there is certainly one thing they all have in common: all of you care passionately for the welfare of these donkeys. Instead of pointing fingers and getting into a discussion about this, can’t you find a way to work together? Sit down and talk about what needs to be done, what needs to change? It’s clear that they need a pro to step in and get things right, so make an action plan together. Set aside differences for the sake of the donkeys. That is the goal here, right? Let’s provide the sanctuary with the help they need, not money, but someone who knows what needs to be done so we can have a place worthy of the name sanctuary. Marina loves her donkeys, probably up to a point where tunnel vision takes over…, but I can’t imagine they would turn away from anything that would improve the donkeys welfare.
    It is hard to keep facts straight and the politics that surround the sanctuary is making it more difficult. I hope you find a way to focus on the end goal, animal welfare, and move into the grey zone where opposites meet and find a way to work together, instead of wasting time and energy fighting each other and seeing only black and white, because whatever it is, there’s always 2 sides of a story. Many thanks for writing this article, I hope you can find a way to do this right, you have my support and I am looking forward to some changes for the better.


    • Hello Lana, I have heard from locals that they are planning to start capturing the wild donkeys again and place the females in the sanctuary and castrate the males and turn them loose. From what I understand, there were improvements made to the sanctuary, but it still remains too small a space for too many donkeys. They have lived well and healthy on Bonaire for 500 years. All the island needs are speed bumps and flashing lights at known crossing points. To secure the trash cans in town so that the buriku (donkeys) cannot open them. And, most importantly, the wells in the mundi (bush) need to be re-opened.


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