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Uhuru urged to ban the export of donkey skin

By Joseph Muchiri

Faced with a possible extinction of donkeys due to slaughter, donkey owners have petitioned President Uhuru Kenyatta to order the closure of four donkey abattoirs in the country.

Donkey owners from various parts of the country complained that the donkey skin trade and export of the animal’s meat to China has led to rampant theft and the drastic reduction of Kenya’s donkey population.

The farmers who spoke during a stakeholder’s forum in Nairobi on Wednesday said traders who supply the abattoirs began by buying lame donkeys, then moved to healthy and pregnant ones. As the animals’ population declined, stealing of donkeys rose.

They claimed that they had petitioned county governments to close the abattoirs but nothing had happened hence their petition to the Head of State.

The population of donkeys in the 2009 census was 1.8 million but a survey by Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organisation last year showed the population had dropped to lows of 1.2 million today. Kalro said donkey’s national growth rate is 1.4 per cent, whereas the animals are being slaughtered at a higher rate. After the first abattoir was licenced in 2016, some 2641 donkeys were stolen a year later. Only 476 donkeys were stolen in 2016.

Donkey welfare organisations estimate the four abattoirs in Baringo, Naivasha, Turkana and in Kithyoko in Machakos counties have a processing capacity of 1,000 donkeys daily. A donkey farmer from Turkana County Ngachuroo Namuya lost her 30 donkeys in a day, subjecting her to destitution.

“I reported to the authorities but they were not recovered. I later learnt that the animals had been taken to a donkey slaughterhouse. My only source of livelihood was wiped out in a night,” she told the forum that brought together donkey welfare champions.

Turkana County accounts for about a quarter of all the donkeys in Kenyan and the main source of livelihood for many residents of the semi-arid area. In 2018 it led in cases of donkey thefts in the country at 26 per cent with Narok and Kajiado following at 12 per cent.

The animals are used to transport water, firewood, haul commodity to market among other uses. Donkeys are similarly useful in other parts of the country such as Nyandarua, Limuru, Ruai, Mwea, Meru, Mwingi, Nyanza, among others.

Theft of donkeys has also been reported in various parts of the country and is attributed to the huge demand for the animals at the abattoirs. Fred Samba from Homabay County lost his five donkeys recently.

Elijah Mithigi, the Programmes Manager, Brooke East Africa, an NGO that protects donkey rights said unless the trend in donkey trend continues, the animals will be wiped out by 2022. Muthigi said the situation is worsened by a failure to increase the population of donkeys through breeding.

“There is no artificial insemination of donkeys which can help boost their reproduction. Donkeys take years to reproduce. To protect the donkey species, the President should ban donkey skin trade and close the donkey abattoirs in the country,” he said.

Some associations such as Kahuruko Youth Donkey Group in Kirinyaga County have tried to keep female donkeys for breeding. The chairman Dennis Muchira said the results are low as donkeys take long to reproduce. Eston Muriithi from Kendat Heshimu Punda Programme added that those who steal donkeys for their skin slaughter them in very inhumane ways.

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