The government of Botswana is currently making a research in Asian countries to see if it could venture into the donkey product business. The revelation was made by the Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Patrick Ralotsia during a special council meeting in Francistown last week.
Ralotsia was answering a question from one of the Francistown city councilors, Cornelius Gopalang who demanded clarification on the closure of a donkey abattoir in the vicinity of Francistown which was closed last year.
The abattoir was shut down by government after its operator, a Chinese business man was accused of animal cruelty. Over 500 donkeys that were found at the abattoir were killed after it emerged that they were in a bad condition and were poorly fed.
“I am the one who shut down the operation as some of the donkeys were starving and eating each other. We have since discovered that donkeys just like cattle are a lucrative business. Their skins are in high demand in the Asian countries. We are currently looking at perhaps selling our donkeys or donkey products to those markets in the future. We have sent our officers to those countries to find out why donkey skins are lucrative business in the Asian countries,” he explained.
There is currently a growing demand from the Chinese market for donkey products such as meat and hides which are stewed to produce gelatin. Gelatin is a key ingredient in making the much prized Chinese medicine called Ejiao.
Locally donkeys are popular as draught power as well as food delicacy for some sectors of the community. Donkey milk is also believed to be of health benefits and is also attracting a huge market locally and abroad. The milk is also used among others locally to make soaps which are believed to be good for the skin.
However last year the government announced a ban on the exportation of donkey products to the Asian markets. The Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security announced its concern over the undiscerning and cruel slaughter of donkeys for their hides. It has since advised farmers to keep a vigilant eye on the donkeys and report any suspicious illegal trade on live donkey, donkey meat and hides to the law enforcement authorities. Botswana became the sixth African country to impose restrictions on donkey product exports after countries such as Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe and Gambia.
International organizations such as the British based Donkey Sanctuary are already advocating for the welfare and rights of donkeys worldwide. The organization was established by Elizabeth Svendsen in 1969 and was registered as a Charity in 1973.
Svendsen was prompted to establish the sanctuary when she saw several small donkeys crammed into a small pen. After her unsuccessful efforts to buy the donkeys which were in the worst condition, she decided that enough was enough. Instead of breeding them she would try to save them.
Minister Ralotsia had been summoned by the Francistown City Council to explain on the status of BMC abattoir in Francistown.