Marakwet East locals intercepted a lorry transporting 30 donkeys in Chesoi, on suspicion that the animals had been stolen from from other areas.
The residents who were armed with bows and arrows claimed the donkeys were going to be slaughtered and their meat sold in the area. Five had suffocated.
Wilson Tangus, Tirap division assistant deputy county commissioner, said the residents overpowered AP officers and let the animals out of the lorry.
“Residents raised the alarm at 2am. They complained they spotted a strange lorry transporting several donkeys. They managed to intercept it by 5am,” he said.
Area police boss Emmanuel Rono said Chesoi police station officers were questioning two men on whether the donkeys were stolen..
Rono said the donkeys were being taken to a popular slaughterhouse in Mogotio, Baringo county.
But he noted the two had a transport permit from the Elgeyo Marakwet county government.
“We are yet to establish the authenticity of the permit,” he said.
Why there is a demand on donkey meat
Sambirir location chief Benjamin Kipkemoi said the sale of donkeys was common in the area.
There has been an increase in the demand of donkey meat in the country since the first slaughter house was established in Naivasha.
Kenya saw one of the biggest slaughterhouses come up in Baringo in April. Two Chinese nationals - Lu Jing and Lu Donglin - are behind the facility set up at a cost of Sh300 million.
Goldox Donkey Abattoir will export donkey meat to China where the demand is high.
The Chinese use donkey meat for traditional medicine. When boiled, donkey skin produces a rubbery, gelatine-like substance, known as ejiao, which is included in many popular Chinese tonics and medicines.
This is because of its perceived ability to cure coughs, relieve insomnia and revitalise the blood.
But a Guardian report stated China was facing a shortage of donkey meat, leading to focus on Africa. In South Africa, the demand for donkey meat is so high that there is theft of the beast of burden.
Donkeys are primarily used for labour in Kenya. The country has about 1.8 million donkeys compared to 42 million poultry, 17 million cattle, 17.4 million sheep, 25.4 million goats, 2.9 million camels and 430,000 pigs.