While in Africa, a donkey is a beast that helps ease transport burdens, the same is a delicacy and miracle cure to health enthusiasts in the Far East.
Donkey meat and its hide is becoming the new ivory.
The gelatine from donkey skin is a key ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine “ejiao”. As manufacturers struggle to meet rising demand, they have set up shop in Baringo and Nakuru counties, the first donkey abattoirs in Africa.
Mary Kipchoim, a donkey farmer in Mogotio, Baringo county, says there are increasing cases of people going to farms, stealing people’s donkeys and transporting them to the processing plant.
“In most cases, the thieves slit the animals’ throats and skin them from the neck down, leaving the meat to vultures and hyenas.”
Donkey skin goes for Sh30,000-Sh50,000 in the black market, depending on the donkey’s weight. Most of the donkeys found slaughtered had their ears, skins and tails missing.
Chonglin Heng, a Chinese residing in Nakuru, says ejiao was once prescribed primarily to supplement lost blood and balance.
However, today it is sought after as medicine for a range of problems, from simple colds and insomnia to delaying aging and increasing libido to treating the side-effects of chemotherapy and preventing infertility, miscarriage and menstrual irregularity in women.
effectiveness of ejiao as a treatment for blood circulation and cancer has not been scientifically established. China’s National Health Commission dismissed it in February as “just boiled donkey skin”. This sparked uproar and the authority later apologized.
“In China, where most of the meat ends up, it is considered a delicacy, with some restaurants serving special donkey dishes that offer the genitals of donkeys,” Heng says.
“Local attempts to replenish the herds have proved difficult. Unlike cows or pigs, donkeys do not lend themselves to intensive breeding. Females produce just one foal a year and are prone to spontaneous abortions under stressful conditions. So Chinese companies have begun buying donkey skins from developing nations.”
Despite the declining population, donkeys remain a strong pillar in many rural areas in Kenya and have been celebrated for the last 13 years.
Today marks the National Donkey Welfare Day, set to be marked in 10 counties. Brooke East Africa CEO Fred Ochieng said in the recent past, the most prevalent problem donkeys have faced has been the threat of theft and illegal slaughter for their skin and meat.
“The day, which is held on every May 17, aims to create awareness on the importance of donkeys to the various communities they belong to,” he said.
(Story Courtesy the Star)
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