Celebrated every May 17 each year, the National Donkey Day aims to recognize the contribution donkeys make, to the national and rural economy across Kenya. It brings together animal welfare organizations from all over the country who lobby for proper animal welfare as that is what defines an animal’s well-being.
The theme of National Donkey Day 2021 was ‘Donkeys for Prosperity & resilience Amidst Adversity’. This was meant to show case the role that donkeys play in supporting livelihoods, despite facing a myriad of challenges.
APaD celebrated this day in Nanam, Turkana West where the community was sensitized on issues of Donkey Hide Trade (DHT), safer donkey handling techniques, treatment and vaccination of donkeys and other animals. We managed to treat and vaccinate 136 donkeys, 17 camels, 4 cows and 612 goats & sheep from normal deworming to extreme cases of foot rot for some animals.
This year’s celebrations came at a period where both the donkey owners and donkey welfare organizations are airing their plights against commercial slaughter, after a court ruling that was delivered recently, allowing the four donkey abattoirs in Kenya to resume commercial slaughter of donkeys, posing a great threat to livelihoods of communities who depend on them, as well as a threat to the already diminishing donkey populations.
The Government of Kenya gazetted donkey meat as food in the year 1999, with the aim of curbing bush slaughter and improving food safety. This was later followed by the licensing and establishment of donkey four export slaughter houses in the country. These include; Mogotio in Baringo, Star Brilliant in Nakuru, Silzha in Turkana and and Kithyoko in Machakos counties.
Since their establishment, the donkey populations have been diminishing due to the high demand for donkey skins for export in Chinese markets, for making of a traditional medicine called ejiao. This has further triggered donkey theft and slaughter among donkey ownig communities, bringing about devastating effects on they who depend on donkeys for livelihoods.
In their day to day work, donkeys face a myriad of issues other than the commercial slaughter. Such include;
On the #NationalDonkeyDay2021 APaD and partners came together in a bid to address the challenges that face donkeys, in an effort to improving their well-being. The clinic set at Nanam brought together donkey owners, as well as the animal health services providers. Activities around this day and such included;
There is need to come up with a regulatory framework that will favor donkeys and ensure that their welfare is upheld sustainably.
Having recognized that donkey theft and slaughter is one of the biggest challenges that face the donkey owning communities, depriving them of their livelihoods, it is crucial for the decision makers to make rulings that favor the donkey owners, so as to also safeguard donkey populations.
According to a research that was conducted by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization(KALRO), in the year 2019, so far, 301,977 donkeys were slaughtered in three years (2016-2018) by the four slaughter houses. Of those slaughtered, 38% were female and 10% were pregnant. This not only worsens the situation in terms of the donkeys not being able to reproduce but also poses the risk of donkey extinction.