By Linah Musangi
Mwingi, 2st Feb 2018: Increased donkey theft cases across Kitui County due to illegal demand of donkey skin in China’s black market is endangering the animals’ future.
Dr Joseph Kamwonzo lamented that if donkey welfare actors do not respond, the animal will be extinct in the next six years.
‘The construction of a donkey abattoir in Kithyoko, which falls under Machakos County, is a sure indication that the slaughter house is targeting donkeys from Kitui County as its catchment area,‘ disclosed the Veterinary Officer.
Commenting on the economic importance of donkeys, Florence Ndeti, Director of Caritas Kitui said that despite their valuable contributions to human society, research and development into donkey use has been minimal.
‘They receive least consideration in comparison to other species of livestock and their welfare is often quite neglected because they are usually the cheapest, often the only affordable working animal and therefore tend to be associated with the poor,’ said Mrs Ndeti.
Contrastingly, the Director observed that cattle and camels which are usually kept for their milk and meat as well as work, hides that are cured for leather and payment of bride price, donkeys are mainly used for work.
‘This policy on donkey welfare is an integral part of animal health and production and manifests in physical and psychological wellbeing, better performance, and improved market access, safe and mutually beneficial companionship,’ added Mrs Ndeti.
The Caritas Director said donkey welfare entails freedom from hunger, thirst, malnutrition, fear, distress, physical and thermal discomfort, pain, injury and disease.
Samwel Mulonzya, Mwingi Central Donkey Owners Chairman said that traditional beliefs and low purchasing power of owners result to a negative attitude that manifest in prioritization of the other livestock over the needs of working donkeys.
‘This reflects on provision of feeds, water, medication and vaccination to donkeys and consequently it affects their welfare,’ said Mulonzya.
He lamented that working donkeys are not provided with housing and protection at household level.
‘They are over worked during day time and left to feed at night which expose them to stealing by thieves and attack by wildlife. Similarly, there is no established way of dealing with aged donkeys that no longer work,’ said Mulonzya.