The family-run Aglietti
farm is a rescue center in central Florence, Italy which takes in animals rescued from circuses, zoos or abusive owners. They currently house around 170 animals, including lamas, camels and Vietnamese pigs. Now they have a new addition to the family.
A while back, Martin the zebra - rescued some years ago from a failing zoo - jumped the fence of his enclosure, and used his snout to lift the latch of the stable door where the donkeys were being kept.
He then successfully mated with Giada, a rare Italian Amiata donkey who had been brought to the animal shelter in order to mate. And mate she did, indeed. Then Martin snuck back home.
Apparently no one realized what had happened until 12 months later when this act of love
between the zebra and donkey produced Ippo, a rare, and completely delightful, "zonkey" baby, who is drawing crowds to the shelter to visit him.
"We were there at the birth. First the black hooves came out, then the striped legs. We were amazed!" Serena Aglietti, daughter of the shelter's owner said.
"He is doing well. He is naughty but is very sweet with children, he is still on milk but also eating carrots," she said.
Aglietti added that, "It is very rare that a zebra and a donkey mate and reproduce."
And now the result of that union, Ippo, is likely to become famous. The farm say they have received requests to rights over image, including one from Disney to make a cartoon, and another from a soft-toy company.
Ippo is officially a "zebroid
", which is a cross between a zebra and any other equine creature. He has the stripey legs of a zebra, but a donkey's face.
Other combinations are "Zorse" - the name of a pairing with a horse, "zebrule" - when paired with a mule. The zebra-donkey mix is also sometimes known as a "zedonk".
There have reportedly been instances of other zonkeys around the world in China, Japan and the United States.
Aglietti they should know shortly if Ippo will be able to reproduce, although no decision has yet been made on breeding him with either a donkey or zebra.
However, she did say, "If he is fertile, he will have the choice of who to mate with among all the animals we have here," which could prove interesting indeed!
The Daily Mail has a photo of the whole family which can be viewed here