There was business as usual among donkey owners in Lamu Old Town and across the Lamu Archipelago after the National Donkey Welfare Day failed to take place owing to Covid-19 pandemic.
Kenya's National Donkey Welfare Day is celebrated on every May 17. The event seeks to encourage donkey owners and users to value the ‘beast of burden’.
Activities during the Kenya National Donkey Welfare Day include disseminating information on donkey welfare, management and husbandry to owners and users, providing free veterinary treatment to the animals and sharing ideas about donkey welfare.
Participants also discuss how best donkeys should be handled. Local county officials are also encouraged to adopt welfare-friendly by-laws that promote a positive image of donkeys.
Within the Lamu Archipelago, donkey is the most treasured animal, being a common mode of transport, particularly in Lamu Old Town, a World Heritage site listed by Unesco in 2001 in recognition of its decades old richly preserved culture and heritage.
Lamu Island has a population of more than 5,000 donkeys.
Speaking to the Nation on Sunday, Lamu donkey owners expressed disappointment after the annual event failed to take place.
Mr Faiz Abdulrahman, who is the spokesperson of the Lamu Donkey Owners and Users said they hoped to join the rest of Kenyans in celebrating the crucial day.
Mr Abdulrahman said it is only during the event that they get trained on the rights and freedoms of their donkeys.
“It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t join the rest of Kenyans in celebrating the National Donkey Welfare Day because of Covid-19. We value the Donkey Day here in Lamu Old Town,” said Mr Abdulrahman
Mr Said Salim, a donkey owner in Lamu said they engage in various competitions every time donkey welfare day is celebrated in Lamu.
According to Mr Salim, during this day, their donkeys take a whole day’s rest.
“During this day, participate in various competitions and get prizes for our donkeys. We always have prizes for the cleanest, the healthiest, the most decorated donkey and the most loved donkey handler among other categories,” said Mr Salim.
Mr Mohamed Omar, another donkey owner in Lamu pleaded with the county government to consider setting aside funds to enable donkey owners to effectively take care of their animals during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to Mr Omar, poverty levels have increased due to the Covid-19 has led to the poor handling of donkeys in the island.
“Let the county government support the donkey owners so that we don’t feel burdened in taking care of our animals considering their crucial role in the county’s culture,” he said.
Lamu County Donkey Sanctuary Senior Attendant Felix Rachuonyo said they were unable to celebrate the National Donkey Welfare Day due to coronavirus.
Hundreds of donkey owners and users always converge at the Lamu Donkey Sanctuary every annually to celebrate the beast of burden.
“There are no activities taking place at the Donkey Sanctuary at the moment because of Covid-19. We hope to mark the day next year,” said Mr Rachuonyo.
He, however, stressed on the need for donkey owners and users to take good care of their animals including taking them for regular medical check-ups.
“We have the donkey hospital in Lamu where we offer treatment to both inpatient and outpatient services at no cost. We’ve been providing education to the public on the role donkeys play in the society and the need for the owners to respect the rights of their donkeys. We expect donkey owners to continue bringing their animals for checkups even during this period of coronavirus,” said Mr Rachuonyo.