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Lucrative secret trade threatens donkey populations in Karamoja, Turkana

Leaders of Turkana County Assembly in Kenya have appealed to the government of Uganda to stop the ongoing booming trade of donkeys between the neighbouring Karimojong and Turkana pastoralists’ communities.

The call by Kenyan leaders was made through Karamoja district leaders, with the former expressing worry that the lucrative trade could wipe out the population of donkeys in the area.

Patrick Imana, a member of Turkana County Assembly representing Lokiriama ward, told theCooperator that despite the ban on cattle markets as part of measures to prevent the spread of the novel Coronavirus in the two counties, a secret trade in donkeys continues to thrive.

He said the trade on donkeys in the two communities has affected the general number of
donkeys in Turkana.

”Thieves have also taken advantage to steal donkeys and take them for slaughter in Moroto district and then go back to Kenya with skins to sell,” he said.

Locals say the increased demand for donkeys comes from Chinese traders who deal in donkey products in Lodwa Town in Turkana County in Kenya, about 140 kilometers from Moroto Town in Uganda.

These Chinese traders boil donkey hides to produce gelatine, one of the key ingredients allegedly used in a medicine called ejiao. Ejiao is used to treat conditions such as anaemia, heavy menstruation periods, as well as dry coughs.

The high demand for donkeys has seen even cattle traders opting to deal in donkey meat, hides and skins. .

Currently, a big donkey weighing about 100kgs or more is sold for not less than Shs 1m while a cow goes for as low as Shs400, 000, and a bull of 100 kilogrammes goes for about Shs700, 000. On a good day, one can sell a minimum of four donkeys.

“This booming trade in donkeys must be regulated, otherwise in the next three years not a single donkey will be left in the kraals of Karimojong and Turkana pastoralists,“ Imana said.

Samuel Ekuwe, another leader, said the rate at which donkeys are sold in Turkana posed a threat to the community that depends heavily on them and must be stopped.

He said since January 2019 when the trade in donkeys was introduced, a total of 8,000 of the hardy farm animals had been sold in Turkana County alone.

“You know a donkey does not produce as fast as a cow where we can say their number will recover easily,” he said. 

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