What you need to know:
- Turkana accounts for 30 percent of the country's donkey population
- Donkey numbers in the county have declined from 800,000 in 2016 to the current 400,000
- Bandits are part of an organised criminal syndicate that supplies skins to abattoir
- Donkey owners say bandits are slitting the animals' throats, skinning them from the neck down and leaving the meat for vultures and hyenas
Residents of Turkana County are concerned about the dwindling population of donkeys due to their uncontrolled slaughter for commercial purposes.
Donkey owners and local leaders say the animals are being brutally slaughtered in large numbers for their hides, which are in high demand in China for use in traditional medicine.
Official statistics from the County Directorate of Livestock show that Turkana, which accounts for 30 per cent of the country's donkey population, has seen a decline in the number of animals from 800,000 in 2016 to the current 400,000.
Association of Donkey Owners in Kenya (Adok) - Turkana chapter chairman Albert Naida said there is a new breed of bandits who have perfected the act of slitting the animals' throats, skinning them from the neck down and leaving the meat for vultures and hyenas.
He said the bandits are part of an organised criminal syndicate that supplies skins to the abattoir in Nakwaalele village on the outskirts of Lodwar town.
Although the government has ordered the closure of four known donkey slaughterhouses, including Silzha in Lodwar, Mr Naida says the facility is currently used as a warehouse for donkey skins, which are later trucked out of the county.
"Through our local intelligence, we have been able to track several bodaboda operators and Probox vehicle taxis that collect the dried skins to the slaughterhouse. In a week, more than 3,000 donkey skins are usually loaded onto a truck and transported out of the county," said Mr Naida.
National Donkey Day
On National Donkey Day last week, Turkana Council of Elders official - Mr Abraham Lokwam, who joined donkey owners in celebrating the day, said government officials from relevant departments needed to be investigated for facilitating the trade.
He said someone was responsible for licensing the trade and taking revenue or kickbacks.
"The trade is active at night when most people are asleep and there are no roadblocks, but some government officials are aware of it," Mr Lokwam said.
Mr Ekai Lokuta of the Agency for Pastoralists Development (APaD) said the organisation, with support from The Brooke East Africa, was supporting the welfare of the donkeys through the donation of supplementary feeds, as well as vaccination and treatment campaigns.