The Down Syndrome Society of Kenya on Saturday, with the support of Devki Steel Mills and Prime Bank, adopted a Zedonk at the Nairobi Animal Orphanage. The rare animal is a crossbreed of a zebra and a donkey. The 10-year-old zedonk was brought to the orphanage from Maralal on October 3, 2010, after being released by the local community to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

The animal adoption programme at the Nairobi Animal Orphanage managed by the KWS gives individuals and corporates a chance to sponsor and adopt an animal with fifty per cent of the sponsorship going to the conservation fund and the rest catering for the animal’s upkeep.

Jamaican sprinter and 100 M world record holder Usain Bolt is among celebrities that have adopted animals at the orphanage with a cheetah cub named ‘Lightning Bolt’ after him.

Kenyan Prime Minister, Hon. Raila Odinga, who launched the adoption programme, also has an eight-month-old lion named after him while former 110 M world hurdles record-holder Colin Jackson, named and adopted a four-year eland –  ‘Colin’.

The Nairobi Animal Orphanage is famous for its world-renowned efforts to care for rescued, abandoned, old and injured wild animals with species coming from far off regions including West and North Africa.  The animals at the orphanage are used mainly for educational and research purposes.

The Animal Wildlife Adoption Programme is one of the activities KWS is rolling out in the build-up to the launch of an endowment fund to support Kenya’s wildlife heritage. The fund seeks to raise KES 7.5 billion (USD 100 million) over a 10-year period to facilitate the conservation of Kenya’s wildlife in times of drought, changing land use and high population growth.

The fund is also meant to cushion wildlife conservation from over-reliance on volatile tourism trends. The kitty will be used for security operations, research and monitoring, translocations, infrastructure, conservation and education.

So far KES 22 million (USD 293,000) has been raised for the fund including KES 20 million set aside by the Kenya Wildlife Service, KES 380,000 from KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, KES 496,750 from the Cycle with the Rhino event, and KES 12,500 from Dr Scott Rogers.

There are an estimated 45,000 people with Down Syndrome cases in Kenya with the figure steadily rising with the national average being one to every 800 births. Down Syndrome is a genetic disorder that leads to developmental delays, learning disabilities and physical defects, including hearing disabilities, speech and heart conditions. Erik Madete, the Down Syndrome Society of Kenya chairman said parents with children suffering from the condition are often stigmatised by society.