'Count them, before killing them'

Not enough data collected

28 February 2018 | Local News

Independent findings by a consulting firm commissioned by a Chinese/Namibian operation with plans to operate a donkey abattoir in Outjo, highlighted an urgent need for a population count of the animals and serious concerns around the socio-economic impact of the donkey skin trade in the Land of the Brave.

Svenja Garrard of Quivertree Consulting on Friday, in a letter addressed to stakeholders, warned that it would be “negligent” of the firm to recommend that the project be approved “until more accurate data had been obtained”.

Fu Hai Trading Enterprise last year commissioned Quivertree Consulting to conduct an environmental impact assessment of their planned state-of-the-art cattle and donkey abattoir in Outjo.

Garrard further wrote that following in-depth specialist studies and wide-ranging consultations Quivertree “determined that the resource (donkeys) is limited and there is no accurate census data or research on their natural breeding rates and population changes”.

Without this data, a donkey slaughterhouse “could lead to the unsustainable off-take of donkeys, which would decimate the natural population and have a detrimental impact on the livelihoods of poor communities, in particular those of women and children.”

In conclusion, Quivertree informed their clients, Fu Hai Trading Enterprises, that the study had found that the “proposed slaughter of 70 donkeys per day was not sustainable”.

After reviewing the findings, Fu Hai Trading Enterprises, headed by Swakopmund-based Shane Quinton Hangula and a Chinese business partner identified only as 'Mr Chengdabiek', pulled the plug for economic reasons.

Quivertree had recommended an independent donkey census should be carried out before an abattoir is approved, in order to confirm the numbers that can be sustainably slaughtered.

Secondly, a study should be done to determine the price that would incentivise the breeding of donkeys for the purposes of supplying them to abattoirs.

While Fu Hai Trading Enterprises had stated they planned to supply meat - locally and abroad - the main driver of donkey abattoirs globally and in Africa is to provide donkey skins to Asia, mainly China, where a high demand has spurred a steep growth spurt in donkey abattoirs around the world.

Quivertree noted that following a census and price study, the socio-economic costs of the donkey skin and meat trade should be weighed, and how to minimise it.

“Then government should consider issuing an annual licence to operate together with a quota - similar to the fishing industry system. Government, local communities and the proponent should also actively prevent uncontrolled off-take.”

Quivertree's scoping study, together with public and specialist input, found that the environmental impacts relating to the construction and operation of the facility, namely air quality, noise, visual, waste, ecology, traffic and soil could be mitigated to low with good design and engineering, and the implementation of best practice management measures.

An environmental impact assessment that was completed last year for Agrinature Investment and Trade, also reportedly a Namibian and Chinese joint venture, to establish a donkey slaughterhouse at Okahandja is still under review at the environment ministry, officials confirmed this week.

A copy of the impact assessment, provided to Namibian Sun last year by the directorate of environmental affairs, did not address the impact a donkey abattoir will have on the local donkey population and the long-term risks to communities dependent on donkeys.

On Friday, the Windhoek Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) urged authorities to take the recommendations contained in the Quivertree findings on board, when similar projects are proposed.

The SPCA warned that the widely reported impacts of increased donkey poaching and other vulnerable wildlife, as well as steep price hikes, took place in other countries where the donkey skin trade took hold through the establishment of official abattoirs.