Animal welfare groups push for donkey's rights at AU summit

Local residents ferry maize products using donkeys from an estate in Eldoret to unknown destination within Uasin Gishu County.  [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

The African Union’s InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) and animal welfare organisations have intensified their advocacy mission to preserve Africa's donkey population.

The animal welfare organisations which include Brooke Action for Working Horses and Donkeys, Donkey Sanctuary, SPANA, and World Horse Welfare took advantage of the ongoing 37th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union to emphasize the critical importance of safeguarding Africa's donkeys, which constitute over 60 per cent of the global count. 

According to the welfare groups, donkeys were first domesticated in Africa, making them a true African animal resource, and a heritage of the continent.

They said Africa's deep-rooted connection with these resilient animals is undeniable, as they play a pivotal role in supporting livelihoods, countries’ economies GDP, empowering women, and enhancing agricultural productivity.

Despite their significance, the groups said Africa's donkeys face an uncertain future due to the looming threat of the donkey skin trade and inadequate protection measures.

Dr Otieno Mtula from the Donkey Sanctuary said the animals are not mere beasts of burden but lifelines for millions across Africa, contributing directly and indirectly to various Sustainable Development Goals and livelihoods.

Mutula said donkeys facilitate access to healthcare and education, empower women by alleviating manual labour burdens, and aid in adapting to climate change and socio-economic challenges.

While highlighting the grave threat posed by the burgeoning demand for donkey skins, driven by unfounded beliefs in their medicinal properties, Dr Mutula said this indiscriminate slaughter jeopardises both donkey welfare and the socio-economic stability of reliant communities, perpetuating illicit activities and public health risks.

His sentiments were echoed by Dr Hiver Boussini of AU-IBAR who noted that the ongoing efforts to raise awareness and advocate for donkey protection and inclusion in animal resource development policies is vital towards the realization of the Dar es Salaam Declaration.

Boussini said more decisive action however, is needed at the continental level to comprehensively address this pressing issues including the development of a Pan African Strategy for the development of Donkey Species in Africa and action plan for increased production and productivity.

While Dr Raphael Kinoti of Brooke East Africa, in his remarks underscored the need for stringent regulations, robust welfare measures, and comprehensive initiatives to integrate donkeys into development agendas, Emmanuel Bouré Sarr from Brooke West Africa, stressed the importance of sustained efforts to mobilize resources, foster collaboration, and implement policy recommendations at the grassroots level.

The welfare groups said by championing a moratorium on donkey slaughter and accelerating continental coordination efforts, African leaders can reaffirm their commitment to protecting the continent's natural heritage and promoting sustainable development.

According to them, the fate of Africa's donkeys is intertwined with the continent's journey towards prosperity and resilience.

AU-IBAR has designated 2024 the Year of Donkey Species Preservation in Africa.

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