An agricultural research agency has warned that the country’s donkeys could be wiped out in the next four years.
The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) said studies showed 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 titled Status of Donkey Slaughter in Kenya and its Implications on Community Livelihoods, which was released on June 5.
The report, which also brought on board Brooke East Africa and the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), among other stakeholders, indicated that total donkeys slaughtered in the past three years represented 15 per cent of the current population.
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The increased demand for donkey hides to manufacture Chinese traditional medicine, the report showed, had led to unregulated slaughter in four slaughterhouses that were licensed between 2016 and last year.
Statistics show that in 2016, the number of donkeys legally slaughtered was 20,768, translating to one per cent of the population, while in 2017, up to 12,578 donkeys were slaughtered, representing 6.2 per cent of the population.
Last year, 159,631 donkeys were slaughtered, translating to 8.1 per cent of the population.
“Despite an assumption that the donkey population rate would remain constant over the years, there was disruption of annual population growth rate through indiscriminate slaughter of female donkeys at 38 per cent and pregnant donkeys at 10 per cent,” the organisation noted.
Rift Valley region had the highest population of donkeys, estimated at 988,647, followed by North Eastern region with 383,345 and Eastern region with 304,249.
The figures, Kalro noted, were from the KNBS and went back 10 years.
In their projection, Kalro estimated that at the current rate of slaughter to meet soaring export demands, against reproduction rates, donkey numbers would fall to 468,716 by 2022, before being wiped out the following year.
“The annual mean rate of donkeys slaughtered was 5.1 per cent, five times higher than the annual population growth of donkeys,” the report notes.
But if slaughter had been halted from 2016 when the population was projected at 1.9 million, the numbers might have risen to slightly over 2 million by 2022, the study shows.
Between 2016 and 2018, 25 per cent of the donkeys slaughtered were assumed to be working and would have generated Sh28.3 billion.
But based on prices declared by exporters, gross revenues generated from export of donkey meat and skin amounted to Sh1.82 billion.
Between 2016 and 2019, 2,209 tonnes of donkey products were exported.
But there are discrepancies in the quantities exported as recorded by the four slaughterhouses compared to export records at the Kenya Revenue Authority and the KNBS.
While Government records of donkey meat production are higher, records from the four slaughterhouses indicate relatively low figures.
Kalro concluded that the discrepancies in the quantities of donkey products exported as reported by slaughter houses and as captured by the KRA was a matter of concern.
The organisation recommends regulating the donkey slaughter for export exercise until breeding programmes have been put in place to ensure sustainability.