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The many uses of the beast of burden

FEATURES
By ANTONY GITONGA | September 4th 2012

By ANTONY GITONGA

When you visit Naivasha town for the first time, you will notice two things: Dust and scores of donkeys in the streets.

Some people say if you were travelling west of Nairobi with your eyes closed and when you open them you see are donkeys pulling carts loaded with huge water jerricans, then you have reached Naivasha town.

The estates and businesses have their water delivered by these faithful beasts of burden.

Because of this duty, the animals have employed hundreds of youths in the town whom they serve faithfully despite being overworked and underfed.

Now, some unscrupulous traders have found another lucrative use for the beasts of burden — they are slaughtering them to make cheap but delicious samosas, sausages and casserole.

In the last two months, more than 30 donkeys have been slaughtered and their meat carted away to Nairobi and Limuru where there is a ready market.

The whereabouts of another 30 donkeys is unknown.

Those involved in this trade take the steak and leave the head, bones and internal organs for dogs. Currently, the ministry of Public Health has outlawed the hawking of food in the town in a bid to discourage selling of donkey meat.

Stop hawking

“Hawking of unbranded, unlabelled meat, sausages and samosas, amongst others, is rampant and you are expected to stop hawking in your area of jurisdiction with immediate effect,” reads a letter from the chief public health officer, Kepha Ombacho.

Last month, more than 200 water vendors held a demonstration in the town’s streets after four of the donkeys were found slaughtered in Mithuri Estate.

Carrying parts of the carcasses, the demonstrators sought the intervention of the security forces saying that the illegal trade was threatening their lives.

Earlier, a group of vendors had lynched a suspect whom they accused of being part of the gang selling donkey meat.

Increasing theft

The vendors have been complaining of the increasing theft saying that more than 100 donkeys have been stolen since the beginning of the year.

Last week, it was the turn of Kihoto residents to worry about the source of their stew after they found donkey parts dumped along the Naivasha-Mai Mahiu railway line.

According to area councillor Simon Wanyoike Wanango, four   animals disappeared at night only to be found slaughtered the following morning.

“We suspect that the cartel behind the trade is doing good business and we call on police to fully investigate the matter and deal with it as per the law,” Wanango told The Standard.

Jose Wa Funda says donkey owners have investigated and established that some local youths are involved in the illegal trade.

He says youths steal and slaughter the donkeys before their masters ferry them to Nairobi.

“We have vowed to deal with those behind the trade mercilessly as they want to kick us out of the business,” he says.

Once their donkey is stolen and slaughtered, the water vendors are unable to replace it as buying another costs Sh9,000. This is rendering the vendors jobless, a dangerous state of affairs.
Meanwhile, legitimate meat traders in the town have seen their businesses plummet, as customers shy away from buying meat fearing it could be donkey meat.

Chairman Naivasha Butcheries Welfare Association Douglas Ng’ang’a says all meat sold in the town is inspected.

He has challenged police to arrest those behind the trade as it is “soiling” the name of Naivasha and affecting many businesses including butcheries and hotels.

The public health officer Samuel King’ori says investigations to establish those behind the illegal sale of the donkey meat have started. He says initial investigations indicate that the meat was being ferried to Nairobi.

So serious is the problem that the police have formed a squad to deal with the cartel that has been operating mainly along the Nairobi-Nakuru highway.

According to Naivasha OCPD, Ernest Obonyo, the squad will patrol the affected areas, especially slums, to uncover those behind the trade.

“We have noted the problem and we plan to deal with those responsible and let them be warned that it’s a matter of days before we catch them,” Obonyo says.

It is not just donkeys being targeted by these cartels. Kenya Wildlife Services’ Nelly Palmeris, the warden in charge of Hell’s Gate National Park, the trade has been on the increase in the last year.
This year, KWS officers have confiscated more than 20 motorcycles found ferrying bush meat and nabbed some 40 people found poaching.

They target buffalos, giraffes, zebras and Thomson’s gazelles.

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