Animal rights activists have raised the alarm over the influx of donkeys smuggled into the country due to increased demand.
The activists say the trend is an indicator of the dwindling population of donkeys in the country as a result of unsustainable trade.
“These foreign breeds of donkeys from neighbouring countries is a proof enough that the trade is unsustainable and that traders have to smuggle from other countries to keep the slaughterhouses running,” said Fred Ochieng, chief executive of Brooke East Africa.
Since last year, he said there has been increase in donkey theft across the country.
“The statistics are there. Our reports indicate that the current donkey population in the country cannot sustain the current unregulated slaughter and that is why we have been calling on the Government to consider banning the trade,” Mr Ochieng said.
Currently, indigenous Maasai and Somali breeds of donkeys endemic to Kenya are few. Other darker and pure white breeds have been spotted in holding bays in slaughterhouses.
National Network of Donkey Owners Association chairperson Robert Muteithia said the influx of unfamiliar breed of donkeys calls for investigation, even as the Government maintains that the donkeys being slaughtered are from within.
“Strange breeds means there is a lot happening across borders for donkey trade to be sustained in the country, something which the Government should look into. Donkey owners have also borne the brunt of theft to sustain the trade, a situation that even security agencies have not been able to handle,” Mr Muteithia said.
Farming Systems of Kenya CEO Raphael Kinoti said donkey theft across borders was fuelling spread of diseases while brewing diplomatic rows.
“The current situation is not good at all. Smuggling in donkeys is a recipe for spreading zoonotic diseases, a situation that has been experienced in areas next to donkey slaughterhouses in Naivasha and Mogotio. The situation should be controlled to avoid diseases that have been affecting livestock in these areas,” Dr Kinoti said.
The current unregulated slaughter, he says, is spelling doom to donkey population in the country.
“Currently, there are no mechanisms to boost the current population of donkeys despite the massive slaughter. There are no measures to stem the growing theft, signifying the crash of a value-chain that was never thought of,” he adds
The warning comes months after Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) released a report on the status of donkeys across the country.
The report titled Status of Donkey Slaughter in Kenya and its Implications was released in June. The report details that at the current rate of slaughter estimated to be five times the population growth might wiped out donkeys in the country in the next four years.
Kalro revealed that Kenya was slaughtering its donkeys at a rate higher than the national growth rate of 1.4 per cent due the increasing demand for donkey hides for manufacturing Chinese traditional medicine.
Statistics show that the number of donkeys slaughtered rose from 20,768 in 2016 to 159,631 donkeys in 2018.
In their projection, Kalro and Brooke East Africa estimate 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.