Donkey cart owners in Wajir town say their animals are being stolen for meat and hides.
They have blamed the problem on the rise in demand for donkey meat in Naivasha, Nakuru county. Stolen donkeys are ferried to a slaughterhouse owned by Chinese businessmen and operated by a local partner.
Initially, residents were happy when stray donkeys that once roamed the town began disappearing. They had been eyesores and the new market could not have come at a better time. The Naivasha abbatoir exports donkey meat to China.
China imports huge amounts of donkey hide to be made into a paste for cosmetic and
Three months ago, however, there were no more stray donkeys except a few with deformities. After a short while, those owned by residents began to disappear. They reported to the authorities.
Last month, police in Abakore, South Wajir, intercepted a lorry carrying 17 donkeys suspected to have been stolen. It was destined for Naivasha. The officers got a tip-off from members of the public. It emerged some Habaswein residents had reported theft of their animals.
For many vendors, donkeys are essential working animals used for economic gain. They can ferry water, firewood, other goods and even humans. Many residents have been left jobless as donkeys disappear.
Yesterday, donkey cart operator Osman Abera said his fortunes have dwindled. He inherited his business from his father 25 years ago. Abera has lost three donkeys.
He warned against unscrupulous trade and want their beasts of burden returned. Abera said those behind the wave of theft must be arrested and charged.
“It’s hard to cope. I’ve never known any other business. My children are going to sleep sleeping hungry for the first time,” he told the Star.
Two women who use donkey carts to transport firewood have each lost a donkey. They are desperate to protect their sources of livelihood.
“I’m bitter because someone has decided to end our source of livelihood to the delight of the Chinese traders,” Ithila Mohamed said.
At Orahey livestock market, the numbers of donkeys for sale have dwindled and their prices have skyrocketed. The average price was Sh10,000 but has risen to Sh16,000.
Mohamed said she wanted another donkey but could not afford it.
Livestock trader Saman Mahat said the drastic price rise
“Since the news of the donkey slaughterhouse was received, owners have begun selling their animals to the Chinese for a considerable amount,” he said.