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Residents decry growing Chinese demand for their donkeys' skins

Friday November 22 2019

donkey population

Turkana residents protest against the declining numbers of donkeys in the county on November 21, 2019. They demanded closure of a local donkey slaughterhouse. PHOTO | SAMMY LUTTA | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

 SAMMY LUTTA
By SAMMY LUTTA
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Turkana residents held a peaceful demonstration in Lodwar town on Thursday demanding the closure of a local donkey slaughterhouse.

The locals blamed the slaughterhouse the reduced numbers of the animals in the county.

Holding placards, they crisscrossed Lodwar town streets and ended up at the county headquarters where they delivered a petition seeking closure of the Silzha slaughterhouse that has reportedly been killing at least 30 donkeys a day since 2017.

The donkey owners blamed the Sh200 million donkey slaughterhouse for the sharp decline in donkey population following huge demand of donkey skins and meat for export to China.

STOLEN DONKEYS

One of the protesters, Ms Loelim Esekon, said that all her 10 donkeys were stolen, suspecting that the thieves sold them to the slaughterhouse for quick cash.

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She added that the illegal donkey trade has seen current market price of donkeys being cheaper than its skin. "Where a donkey is sold at a throw away price of less than Sh5,000, but its skin costs Sh10, 000," she said.

In their petition, the donkey owners said the high demand for donkey skins has led the Lodwar based donkey slaughterhouse to even slaughter pregnant donkeys.

FACING EXTINCTION

“The firm also failed to establish its own breeding farms for purposes of sustainability of the animals’ numbers in the county and country as a whole," the petition read.

The donkey skins are boiled in China to produce gelatine used in traditional Chinese medicine referred to as Ejiao for making beauty products as such face creams, anti-ageing creams and libido or reproductive treatments.

Mr Brian Ekiru noted that compared to other types of livestock, donkeys have a longer gestation period of 12 months.

"Slaughtering donkeys and when we don't invest in breeding them will automatically lead to their extinction," Mr Ekiru said.

A report released by Africa Network for Animal Welfare recently established that Kenya will not have a single donkey by 2023 if the current slaughter rate due to demand from China continues.

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