The demand for donkey skin in the China’s black market is endangering live of the animal, widely touted as the beast of burden in Kitui County.
Speaking to KNA in Mwingi on Wednesday, the County Veterinary Officer, Dr. Joseph Kamwonzo lamented that if donkey welfare actors do not respond in time, the animal will be extinct in the next six years.
This shocking revelation came against the backdrop of the County’s donkey policy, which is at the local assembly for debate, aimed at providing appropriate legislation to ensure donkeys were protected from abuse.
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, said 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 they tend to be associated with the poor, said Ndeti.
In contrast, the Director observed that cattle and camels which were usually kept for milk, meat, hides and payment of bride price, donkeys were 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 Ndeti.
The Director said donkey welfare entailed 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 resulted to a negative attitude that manifested 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 were 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 worked, he said.
Luka Musyoka, Mwingi Central Sub-County Deputy Administrator said that although working donkey owners in Kitui County upheld the freedom from pain, injury and disease for animals, generally there was a low awareness, recognition and compliance with the other four freedoms, especially in the area of feeding, transportation and certain cultural sports.
In the devolved government system, County governments have a role to take the lead in ensuring animal welfare among communities through creating awareness, providing the appropriate legislation and animal control services including licensing of companion animals and facilities for accommodation, care and proper disposal of animal carcasses, said Musyoka.
Dr. Donald Masila, a veterinary officer and head of Mtunze Punda Daima Project, said the economic contribution of working donkeys was discernible but often overlooked due to lack of facts backed up by reliable data.
Working donkeys are an important source of support to sustainable household livelihoods in Kitui County, they provide employment opportunities and generate direct income for their owners and sustain the local economy and yet consideration for donkey welfare is relegated to the periphery, he said.
Masila observed that there has not been an effective policy, legal and regulatory instrument protecting donkeys specifically considering their unique place in contributing in directly to food, nutrition and income security.
He said that the donkey welfare policy was set to integrate working donkeys’ value as livestock and a source of families’ income and livelihood support system in Kitui County.
Source: Kenya News Agency