ADDIS ABABA – Smuggled Ethiopian donkeys keeping Kenyan slaughterhouses running, says a UK-based institution, urging the government to have a strategy to support their overall social and economic benefits to the society.
Ethiopia closed its only functioning abattoir in Bishoftu a few years ago after a public uproar.
But the growing demand for their skin in China has made them a target for smugglers who take the donkeys to neighbor nation’s slaughterhouses.
Brook Ethiopia, UK-based charity, said the absence of a national strategy and policy framework to support and recognize donkeys’ well-rounded social and economic benefits “has posed a tremendous danger” in Ethiopia.
The charity hosted a consultative meeting with governmental and non-governmental representatives on Friday in a bid to rescue close to nine million donkeys found in Ethiopia.
“The illegal killing and smuggling of Donkeys by contrabandists have increased more than ever,” Desta Arega, Brooke Ethiopia country director, told the gathering.
Around 85 percent of Donkey slaughtered in Kenyan abattoirs are smuggled out of Ethiopia, according to the charity.
This is mainly due to Kenya’s stringent rules to save its dwindling donkey population.
Even though the risk is not limited to Ethiopia, “our case is very special, it needs urgent solution form government,” said the director.
Farmers are selling their donkeys to the smugglers for the highest price hoping that they will find another for a low price next time, Desta said, adding that “buying one has become a very big issue and it may create a social crisis” in the future.
Brook Ethiopia has urged the government to make laws on animals’ movement, curb unregulated animals trade in border areas and tackle Donkey theft.
Experts fear China’s demand for donkey skins to make a traditional medicine, ejiao, could wipe out more than half the world’s donkey population in the next five years.
A report by Britain-based animal welfare group Donkey Sanctuary indicates that nearly five million skins are used every year to make ejiao, a gel believed in China to be a remedy for troubles ranging from colds to aging, putting enormous strain on donkey populations around the world.