‘She gets bratty if we don’t show her affection’: Meet Mona Lisa, the zonkey who has become a family petMydeaMedia
As far as rare breeds go, a zonkey is right up there with the most uncommon.
But one that's also a beloved family pet is almost unheard of.
Enter Mona Lisa, the zebra-donkey cross who has been brought up by her doting owner, Mara Baygulova, an internationally renowned opera singer and cellist from Glendale, California.
Devoted: Mara Baygulova hugs her pet zonkey, who she has brought up since rescuing her from a ranch 13 years ago
Mara took Mona Lisa in after rescuing her from a lonely and abused life on a ranch run by a horse trainer who had no idea she was so special.
Zonkeys - also known as Donkra or Zebroid - are extremely rare as zebras and donkeys rarely mate.
Researchers say that most Zonkeys live in zoos and most of them, outside South Africa, were created through artificial insemination.
Mona Lisa has the shape and the distinctive donkey ears - but has black and white ears, stripes on her legs and sports a striped, spiky zebra mane and tail.
One for the family album: Mona Lisa bears an uncanny resemblance to Donkey from Shrek in this portrait picture
Mara said: 'Mona Lisa is very smart just like a Zebra. In personality, she is 90 per cent zebra. She loves to run and gallop with horses. She's very competitive.'
She added: 'Her intelligence is that of a five year-old child. She retains information - she can see something done just once and then do it herself.
'For example, when we first got her she watched me unlock the gate on the corral. A few minutes later she did it on her own, using her lips like fingers.
'She also loves affection and is generous in giving affection, but she can get bratty if she doesn't get it!'
Double take: Mona Lisa has the distinctive donkey ears, but sports black-and-white stripes on her legs and a spiky zebra mane and tail
Mara brought the zonkey home for her son's fifth birthday, who had grown up on the stories of her Mother's childhood pet, a donkey also named Mona Lisa.
This is when Mara went on a search and found Mona Lisa The Second.
The zonkey was four years old herself when she was rescued by the family and is now 17. Even though in the beginning she was afraid of humans, she has turned into what Mara describes as 'love hound'.
Mara says Mona Lisa is quite a 'diva' and loves the attention she gets from the people when they go for walks.
'I see she gets quite miffed if they don't notice she is different!' says Mara. 'She has a lot of self-confidence.'
Even though Mara sings for some of the most discerning opera audiences in the world, she will occasionally sing for Mona Lisa, who perks up her distinctive zebra-donkey ears in delight.