Leaders of the Turkana County government in Kenya which borders the Karamoja region of Uganda have expressed fears over the high demand for donkey skin which they say can easily wipe out the donkey population in the region.
The leaders are now calling on Uganda to stop the booming trade of donkey skin in the two neighbouring pastoralist communities to save the donkey population.
Patrick Icor Imana, representing Lokiriama ward in the Turkana county assembly told URN on Saturday in Moroto that thieves have also taken advantage and stolen donkeys which they take for slaughter at the border of Moroto and Lokiriama, principally to remove the skin for sale.
Imana explained that the booming trade of donkeys must be regulated or else in the next five years from now there will be no single donkey in the kraals of Karimojong and the Turkana pastoralists.
For the last one month, cattle traders in Karamoja have turned to deal in donkeys’ skin, transporting them to Lodwar in Turkana county where they sell it to some Chinese.
URN has learnt that the Chinese traders based in Lodwar in Kenya buy donkey hides which they boil to produce gelatine, one of the key ingredients in medicine called ejiao. Ejiao is used to treat many conditions including anaemia, heavy menstruation periods and dry coughs.
Joseph Ekeno, a trader in Turkana country said most of the traders who were previously dealing in cattle have changed to trading in donkey hides. “On a good day, one can sell four donkeys making around 4 million shillings,” he said.
Currently, a big donkey weighing is sold at 1.6 million Shillings while a cow goes for as low as 1.3 million Shillings.
Mathew Epuke, another leader, said the high speed at which donkeys are sold in Turkana was posing a threat to the community that depends a lot on the donkey and must be stopped. He said since August 2022 when the trade in donkeys was introduced, some 10,000 donkeys have been sold in Turkana county alone.
“What is so hurting is that a donkey does not produce fast like a cow where we can say their number will recover very first, they produce after six years yet a cow produces almost every year,” he said.
He said the donkey does multipurpose work including transporting domestic items to the hilly areas.