Organized donkey theft in Tanzania
Killed, skinned, and thrown away
In the middle of the night, criminal gangs sneak into villages to either steal donkeys or to kill them on the spot and tear the skin from their bodies. The reason is “e jiao” - a product that is derived from the skin of donkeys. Especially in China, the demand for the supposed miracle cure is increasing so strongly that the number of animals can no longer be obtained legally. There are about half a million donkeys in Tanzania, which have now become the target of brutal thefts.
In Tanzania, donkeys are the livelihood of many villagers and since the donkeys usually walk around freely and almost nobody keeps them in a safe barn at night, the criminals have an easy job. This has far-reaching consequences for the population, as the existence of whole families and villages relies on the labour force of the animals.
Donkeys have to be protected
The illegal killing of donkeys began last year in northern Tanzania, where we and our partners of the Meru Animal Welfare Organization (MAWO) built much needed shelters for the animals in the affected communities. Within a very short time, we were able to build about 100 fenced-in areas for 10 to 15 donkeys each together with the animal owners and thereby protect over 2500 donkeys from death by poachers. To increase protection even further, all these enclosures are located in the heart of the villages, in close proximity to the houses. There is an additional protection provided by bells, which are installed on the gates of the enclosures and on some of the animals. The acoustic signals help pet owners to notice more quickly when intruders are trying to get into the stable and the herd is upset.
A great result: Since the enclosures were established, no new attacks on donkeys have been registered here.
Our mission continues
But now the thefts have moved and our partner of the Tanzania Animals Protection Organization (TAPO) has reported cases in the west of the country - more than 100 donkeys were stolen from the villages or skinned on the spot within a very short time. The organisation is another well-known partner of the Welttierschutzgesellschaft (WTG) and has already provided successful emergency aid around the Kahama region during the drought of 2017 and the floods in spring 2018. That is why we quickly made the financial means available for further emergency aid, so that no donkey in this region is left defenseless to the poachers.
With the active support of the villagers, more than 30 enclosures were built in six villages, which guarantee the protection of over 800 donkeys. The donkey owners were very happy about our work, which was soon spread around. Our partner organisation was asked for help by four other villages, where we are now building enclosures for more than 500 donkeys.
Raising awareness for the urgency of the problem
In addition to the construction measures, meetings with local politicians, community leaders and donkey keepers took place in all affected communities together with MAWO and most recently with TAPO, because the protection of animals must be on the long-term agenda. The problem must be integrated into the official planning and every animal owner must be able to accommodate his donkeys in safety.
Additionally, local radio stations broadcast spots in the national language of Swahili and other local languages which include key messages and advice on animal welfare. In total, we want to raise awareness of the issue among around 2 million people this way and also raise awareness for the necessity of immediate action for the protection of donkeys and provide assistance where needed.