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Donkey skin business still on despite a ban by the government

An alarm has been sounded over the stealing and bush slaughter of donkeys for both skin and meat business in the country.

Consequently, the government has been asked to address legal gaps that have been established as the factors enabling the illegal practice which is threatening the existence of donkeys and exposing the public to health risks.

 A media sensitization and consultative workshop organized by the Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) in conjunction with Weltierschutzgesellschaft (WTG) from Germany held in Moyale town disclosed that about 10,000 donkey skins were exported to China last year despite a ban on the same by the government.

ANAW programme officer Dr Dennis Bahati said that there is increased bush slaughter of donkeys in various parts of the country especially Kajiado, Nakuru, Kiambu and Naivasha purposely for their skin which is in high demand in China for its valuable ejiao, a cultural remedy.

Dr Bahati while hailing the government for revoking export licenses issued to four companies that operated donkey slaughterhouses in the country, said there was urgent need to formulate laws and policies to make an African Union Assembly moratorium adopted in February 2024.

During the extraordinary session, the heads of states and government in Addis Ababa, agreed to stop what was described as horrific donkey skin trade in the continent.

Dr Bahati told the forum which brought journalists working in Isiolo and Marsabit counties as well as the Moyale donkey welfare association that apart from decimating the donkey population the bush slaughter posed a health hazard as the inspected meat passing as beef meat finds its way to the supply chain.

The number of donkeys has been dwindling at an alarming rate reducing to slightly above half a million from a staggering figure of 1.8 million as captured during the 2009 national population and housing census.

The participants were in agreement that careless abandonment of donkey carcasses in the bush was an environmental danger as they pollute water sources and expose nearby schools and homesteads to awful smells.

It is also feared that unless stopped, cross border movement and theft of these animals could easily compromise on the gains the government has made in taming the thorny menace of rustling of livestock in pastoralist areas.

The donkey is a resource that many households among pastoralist communities rely on for their livelihoods.

Ms Hawo Huka Gullied, the treasurer of the local donkey welfare association described the donkey as a very precious animal which local communities especially women depend on when fetching water, wood for cooking, food and goods for trade.

“It should not be forgotten that we live in areas where conventional mode of transport is limited so we rely on this animal to transport property when we migrate in search of water and pasture” she said adding that donkeys are used as human transport as well.

The theft and the black marketing of donkeys is emerging as a threat to the livelihoods of hundreds of households in the arid and semi-arid (ASALs) areas of the country, hence frustrating efforts being employed by the government to address issues of poverty.

ANAW director Josiah Ojwang said that the country has of late witnessed an influx of donkeys smuggling from neighbouring countries of Tanzania, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Sudan and Southern Sudan owing to its porous borders.

“Donkeys are still considered as food animals in Kenya and a such slaughtering is allowed by law which was enacted in 1999,” he pointed out and called for a reverse of the same in order to protect the endangered animals and to safeguard human health.

The director noted that the donkey was a difficult breeder animal due to its long gestation period of 13 months besides taking three years before coming on heat after calving.

According to the Moyale sub-county veterinary officer Hassan Nura, the menace of donkey smuggling into the country along the Kenya -Ethiopia border is rampant.

Moyale Sub-county veterinary officer Hassan Nura briefing the press on the sidelines of the workshop where he called for legislation to fill legal gaps in the management of donkey rearing in the country.

Mr Nura said that the area had since the subsiding of covid-19 witnessed an influx of donkey traders reportedly from Naivasha and Nakuru areas.

He said that his office had in the recent past issued movement permits to the traders to transport over 4,000 donkeys who pretend that they were buying the animals for rearing in the neighbouring Isiolo county.

“We have since established that the animals are transported beyond Isiolo particularly to Naivasha and Nakuru where they are slaughtered in the bush for their skin,” he said, adding that his office could not do anything about it as movement of donkeys was permitted in the country.

The official pointed out that the illegal activities surrounding the trade in donkey skins existed because of legal gaps.

The veterinary officer observed that the consumption of donkey meat is legally acknowledged in the country as well as the purchase and transporting of the animals around the country for domestic use is also permitted.

“As the guardian of slaughter and sale of healthy meat we are concerned over the reports that uninspected donkey meat could be infiltrating the supply chain,” he said and urged the legislative organs at county and national level to enact laws that would assist in tackling the problem.

The media was urged to be vigilant and assist the government and other players in championing the welfare of animals and protection of human health.

By Sebastian Miriti

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