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Donkey owners up in arms over theft

By Joseph Muchiri | Updated Fri, December 16th 2016 at 00:00 GMT +3
Donkey owners and their employees after delivering rice at a drying field in Wang’uru town, Kirinyaga. A spate of donkey theft in the region could spell doom to hundreds of residents who depend on the beast of burden for transport. [Photo: Joseph Muchiri/Standard]

Distressed donkey owners have threatened to stage a demonstration following a surge in donkey theft.

The animals are popular in the rice-growing region of Mwea where they are used to haul bags of the grain from the farms.

The donkey owners are blaming the spate of theft of their animals on the opening of two donkey meat abattoirs in Naivasha and Mogotio.

On the eve of Jamhuri Day, residents of Murubara village woke up to discover four heads of donkeys stashed near a river bank.

Women on their way to fetch water stumbled on the find, raising fear that donkey meat could be ending up on their plates.

According to Wang'uru Donkey Owners Association chairman Leonard Gachoki, there are about 3,500 donkeys in Kirinyaga County, whose existence is threatened by merchants who source them for the new abattoirs.

Gachoki said after the opening of donkey slaughterhouses in Naivasha and Mogotio, traders descended on Mwea, buying lame and blind donkeys at Sh4,000, and clearing many of these from the streets and villages.

"The traders have now turned to healthy donkeys and engaged middlemen to source them. The brokers in turn depend on thieves who steal our donkeys," said Gachoki.

Gachoki who has used donkey transport since 1987 pointed out that the animals are now on the decline and called on the Government to step in and end the thefts.

In June, six donkeys were stolen from Makutano area and a few weeks later another three were stolen from Thiba village.

The cases were reported at Wang'uru Police Station and two suspects arrested.

"The thieves target donkeys gathered in enclosures overnight and make away with several. In some cases we find only skeletons after they have extracted the steak. We had cases where dealers in donkey hides poisoned donkeys at night. When the carcass is discarded they exhume and skin it," he said.

To curb the thefts, the association has now banned sale of donkeys at farms and roadside and requires buyers and sellers to transact only at Kutus and Makutano during open market days.

Gachoki said donkey owners hire about 2,000 people in Mwea every day to offer transportation services. The animals are relied on to ferry most of the rice produced in the area to the mills.

For women, the beasts have saved them from hauling heavy loads of firewood, water and market produce.

Kenya Network for Dissemination of Agricultural Technologies, which fights for the welfare of donkeys called for the protection of the beasts from unscrupulous traders.

"We need to relook at the slaughter of donkeys," said Kendat's Heshimu Punda Programme Manager Eston Murithi.