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John Nduhiu milking his donkey at his home at Kamere village in Naivasha, Kiambu County. [File, Standard]

Rift Valley
Countrywide network to address welfare and challenges related to animal theft and unregulated slaughter.

Donkey owners have formed a lobby to address challenges related to donkey theft and unregulated slaughter.

The owners, drawn from over 25 counties, have formed a national network to petition the Government on issues affecting their animals.

“Donkey owners have had to bear the brunt of donkey theft to satisfy the export market because there were no structures to make sure the trade was sustainable. We have come together under National Network of Donkey Owners to voice our grievances,” said Robert Muteithia, the newly elected chair of the network.

He said the team will bring together donkey farmers across the country to push for legislation affecting their animals.

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The owners said the current massive slaughter to satisfy the Chinese demand for the manufacture of traditional medicine is far beyond the reproduction rate of donkeys in the country.

Export demand

“Donkeys were traditionally not produced for slaughter but the Government went ahead to license the slaughterhouses to export donkey products without consideration on the donkey population, the off-take and reproduction. All this has resulted in donkey theft which has stripped thousands of owners their donkeys, also crippling economies in the rural, arid and semi-arid areas,” said Beth Kuria, the treasurer of the group said.

Farming Systems of Kenya CEO Raphael Kinoti said cases of donkey theft spans across borders.

He said the current off-take of donkeys is huge, almost five times the reproduction rate.

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The situation, Dr Kinoti said, spells doom for donkey population due to lack of breeding programmes in the country.

“Currently, there are no mechanisms to boost the current population of donkeys despite the massive slaughter... The trade is unsustainable yet a female donkey gives birth after four to five years,” said Kinoti.

Animal welfare

Donkey owners previously worked with non-state actors to deal with issues on donkey welfare.

Kinoti said it was time the Government considered banning the trade and working on structures towards elaborate donkey reproduction.

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“Unlike in beef production where there are elaborate structures including Artificial Insemination to sustain value chain, in donkeys there are none,” he added.

A recent report by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation revealed that Kenya was slaughtering its donkeys at a rate higher than the national growth rate of 1.4 per cent.

The findings were contained in a report which was released on June 5.

Between 2016 and 2019, 2209 tonnes of donkey products were exported.

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