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Stakeholders raise alarm over steady decline of donkeys

By Gbenga Akinfenwa
24 July 2022   |   2:39 am
Last month, the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) intercepted over 2,820 donkey skins valued at N42m in Kebbi State. The smugglers, who were arrested around Bahindi Dogon Rimi waterside in Bagudo Local Council

Donkey riders

Last month, the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) intercepted over 2,820 donkey skins valued at N42m in Kebbi State.

The smugglers, who were arrested around Bahindi Dogon Rimi waterside in Bagudo Local Council, were trying to traffic the item outside the shore of the country.

In March, the Kano/Jigawa Area Command intercepted four international businessmen while attempting to export dry donkey phallus and skins to China through the land borders.

The Area Comptroller, Mohammad Abubakar Umar, disclosed that the suspects were found with 2, 754 phalli and 3,712 skin valued at over N418m.

In September 2021, operatives of the Comptroller General of the NCS Strike Force, Zone A, intercepted containers of poisonous donkey hides and skin estimated at millions of naira, stacked in a warehouse not too far from Apapa port, Lagos, on the verge of being moved into the port for export when it was intercepted.

These are some of the reported cases of an increased level of poaching; resulting in the slaughtering of donkeys, a development that has led to the steady decline of the animal in the country. This worrying scenario is raising the fear of the possible extinction of the animal.

Donkey is categorised as an endangered animal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered species of wild fauna and flora, to which Nigeria is a signatory.

This prohibits the trading of donkey skins, considered illegal. The donkey skins fall under Schedule 6 of Common External Tariff (2022-2026) exportation, which is prohibited.

The export prohibition guideline is in tandem with the Federal Government’s policies for the protection of endangered species, protection of the local economy and to promote the National Forest Policy that was approved by the Federal Executive Council, aimed at strengthening the management of Nigeria’s vast forest resources against deforestation.

But to the chagrin of industry players and other stakeholders, the guideline has not been strictly adhered to, going by the rate at which the number of animals is diminishing in the country daily.

Donkeys are hoofed mammals in the Equidae family as horse. They are versatile animals and can have many uses including for children to ride, for driving and showing, for light draught work, as companion animals or simply as pets.

In colour, the donkey ranges from white to grey or black and usually has a dark stripe from mane to tail and a crosswise stripe on the shoulders. The mane is short and upright and the tail, with long hairs only at the end, is more cow-like than horse-like. The very long ears are dark at the base and tip. Although slower than horses, donkeys are sure-footed and can carry heavy loads over rough terrain.

While it takes a whole year for the donkey to give birth to a young one, it’s very rare for the animal to give birth to two offspring at a time, compared to goat or other animals.

Donkey has an incredible memory – it can recognise areas and other donkeys they were with up to 25 years ago. Donkeys are not easily startled (unlike horses) and have a keen sense of curiosity. Donkeys have a reputation for stubbornness, but this is due to their highly developed sense of self-preservation.

In rural areas, donkeys are often used in farming and as transportation: they pull ploughs and carts, deliver goods to market, and collect water from wells. In urban areas, they are mainly used in construction, transport of people and goods, and refuse collection.

Donkey meat can be considered a good alternative to red meat consumption, being dietary meat. Donkey meat is in fact characterised by low fat, low cholesterol content, a favourable fatty acid profile and is rich in iron.

However, despite these benefits, the steady decline of the animal is startling the stakeholders, who are entertaining fears that the animal may go into extinction.

A specialist in Animal Breeding and Genetics, John Paul Apagu, who works with the Adamawa Agricultural Development Programme (AADP), Yola, Adamawa State, attributed the steady decline to the high consumption of donkey meat, noting that over 16,000 donkeys are transported from North to the South for meat yearly.

“They are being sold and transported to the South for meat. Over 16,000 donkeys are transported from the North to the South yearly for meat. This has led to a steady decrease in donkey production in the Northern part of the country because the demand for donkey’s meat is much higher than production, as only a few people rear them because they are no longer regarded as farm animals and as a result of that, they are seriously going into extinction.”

Apagu, whose research work for his Master’s Degree at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State was centered on donkey, said his visit to seven states in the Northwest — Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Jigawa and Zamfara, which are the largest producers of donkeys in the country, confirmed that the animal is heading towards extinction.

“Each of these states has donkey markets with the exception of Kaduna State where they are few. Kaduna has a market under Lere Local Council, but it’s not like other states because that area is a Christian-dominated area. But other states that are dominated by Muslims rear them more.

“In terms of production, the Northwest is followed by Northeast and very scanty in the North Central. You hardly find them in the South because of the nature of their environment, as a result of the tsetse fly, which causes a disease called trypanosomiasis, which will eventually lead to death.

“Secondly, Christians don’t normally keep donkeys naturally. That’s why you hardly get to see them in the South. They are mostly kept by Fulanis, because of lots of forest trees that harbour them.”

A page advised the government and other stakeholders to avert the steady decline, suggesting, “Let donkeys be regarded as farm animals because they have almost all the potential, importance and other things that our domestic animals can provide us with.

“Secondly, let there be a sensitisation on the need and importance of donkeys in human life as they serve as a source of meat, milk, pet, draught animals and so on so that people will develop an interest in donkey production and forget about culture and religion beliefs, so that donkey production can be maximised efficiently.”

Mallam Usman Mai Jaki Argungu, who rears donkeys and also serves as a middleman between buyers and sellers of the animal in Kebbi State, also confirmed the challenge confronting the rearing of donkeys.

“I use donkey for merchandise, to convey my goods to the market. I also use my donkeys to convey the goods of other traders from one market to another and also use the animals to convey cow dungs to my farm for use as manure.

“The reason for the steady decline is because some people come here to buy in large quantities and transport them to the South where they are butchered for meat. Some merchants come from other parts of the world to buy in large quantities, because of this, a donkey, which sells for between N3, 000 and N10, 000 has increased to between N100, 000 to N150, 000, because of this, farmers couldn’t afford the price anymore.”

While lamenting that the donkey has gone beyond the reach of the common man in the country, he appealed to the Federal Government, states where the animal is reared and other stakeholders to come to their aid, to protect against the misuse of the animal, noting that donkey is very essential for farming.