Animal rights activists in Southern California are speaking out against 'heritage burro' roundups, after discovering that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had plans to force some of the creatures out of eastern Mojave Desert this year.
"Burros" are small donkeys typically found in Latin America and in the borderlands of the United States. Activists have coined the term "heritage burros" for Southern California's wild donkey population.
“Wild burros have survived in southern California’s deserts for a century and a half. They are part of California’s history and heritage and are protected by federal law,” Suzanne Roy, the director of The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) said in a statement.
The AWHPC claims to have collected over 4,000 comments that they will send to the BLM, opposing the practice of rounding up burros.
The Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, signed into law by Richard Nixon, made it a crime to harass or kill wild horses or burros on federal land.
And, in March, the Texas wildlife agency passed a statute outlawing the killing of burros in a state park along the Mexican border, instituting a "nonlethal plan to remove the destructive animals."
Many in the region consider burros to be "destructive intruders" who are prone to "hogging forage and lapping up precious water in the drought-starved mountains," according to a report by the Associated Press.
But activists claims that the Feds have violated the 1971 statute by employing inhumane measures to round up the animals, such as low flying helicopters which can injure the creatures.
An AWHPC statement maintains that:
"Heartbreaking video footage has shown burros being hit and upended by helicopter skids, roped, hogtied and otherwise mistreated in government capture operations."
But a statement on the BLM's website maintains that "professional wranglers" are brought to 22 areas of Southern California to keep the herds of burros "in thriving ecological balance with their habitat."
The BLM estimates that in 2010, there were over 1,000 wild burros in California, and nearly 5,000 wild burros in the nation.
According to the AWHPC "over 50 burros perished" the same year due to the government's round up efforts.