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    BIZARRE SARDINIA: THE DONKEY ISLAND

    BIZARRE SARDINIA: THE DONKEY ISLAND

    Have you ever seen a little cute white #donkey with blue eyes?

    In the North West of #Sardinia there is a magic island where this #fairytale wild beautiful creature lives and it gives actually name to the island itself: the Island of #Asinara. This special creature, unique in the world for its physical characteristics has become the iconic symbol of the Asinara Island (Asino in Italian means donkey).

    This special blondie is a breed of feral donkey apparently indigenous to the island of Asinara and it is one of the eight autochthonous donkey breeds of limited distribution recognized by the Italian ministry of agriculture and forestry (Ministero delle Politiche Agricole Alimentari e Forestali). In fact it this Equus asinus var. #albina has reduced dimensions compared with normal donkeys, big head, short neck, strong limbs. This marvelous quadruped comes to the world with white wholly fur that becomes slightly opaque in adult age and the sweetest blue clear eyes. The white hoof and an unsteady gait when walking in very bright circumstances make them very special.

    The incredible thing is that despite the fact that in the island the vegetation is low and there are really few places with cool shade this albino donkey has developed and adapted wonderfully in this Island. Most of the population on the island is wholly or partly albinistic; the small number of grey donkeys are also considered part of the population, and are probably heterozygous carriers of the albino gene.

    At the moment, there are approximately 120 miniature individuals on the island. Others has been moved to the natural reserve of Porto Conte in Alghero and to the Istituto di Incremento Ippico at Foresta Burgos, while a few are raised in Tuscany and in Emilia Romagna.

    There are different theories about its origins.

    A first theory says that the donkey is indigenous of the Island, but other theories see the donkey as descendant of African donkeys. There is a legend for which the donkeys came to the Island as per wish of the marquis of Mores imported from Africa. Another story tell us about the donkeys accidentally arrived to the Island after a shipwreck of a boat in a route from Egypt to France around the 1700.  Apparently the donkeys has survived reaching the shore of the Asinara Island.

    The island has an incredible history too. It was colonized by shepherds in the late 700s until in 1885 when King Umberto di Savoia ordered the residents off the island for the construction of  a new penal colony and a quarantine station, that became then a prison camp during the World War I, imprisoning over 24,000 Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war; in 1935, Ethiopian prisoners were detained on the island after the Second Italo-Ethiopian War. In the 1970s, Asinara Island became one of the highest security prisons in the country, detaining high profile Mafiosi and members of the notoriously violent Red Brigade. For over 100 years, the only inhabitants of Italy’s Alcatraz were prisoners, wardens and a drove of albino donkeys.

    When the prison closed in 1997, everything on the island remained as is. Thanks to its national park status today authorized tours can be organized with walking trails crisscrossing the park.  Just few white donkeys are familiar with human presence, most of them are completely wild and difficult to move close.

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