Abuja — The Director General, Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), Dr. Vincent Isegbe, has said it is currently working to regularise trade in donkey skin in order to mitigate the vulnerability of Nigerian donkeys to over exploitation.
According to him, donkeys are globally recognised as an endangered species while Nigeria is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
He said the country is therefore, obligated to institute all reasonable safeguards to protect the surviving breeds of donkeys within her borders from the possible threat of biodiversity loss and extinction.
He added that the global population of donkeys had suffered a collapse over the past decade as the impact of climate change is projected to aggravate their depletion.
He said the development had further inspired conservationist efforts to promote their welfare.
Isegbe said: "The spate of mounting demands for donkey skins has fostered a ravenous underground market for the product, resulting in a relentless open season on the donkey population.
"Sensible and critical to find the sweet spot between the extremes of doctrinaire preservation of donkeys which is ideal but impracticable and the unregulated, free-for-all exploitation of the donkeys which is profligate and irresponsible.
"This is a delicate balancing act that calls for the structuring and standardisation of the value chain in other to maintain and restock the national herd population of donkeys by improved breeding, ranching and other innovative ways."
Accordingly, the NAQS boss noted that in line with the trend, the agency recently assessed the risk environment of the Nigerian donkeys and found it worrisome.
In a statement issued by Head of Media, Communications and Strategies, NAQS, Dr. Gozie Nwodo, Isegbe said NAQS had tabled its findings and recommendations on the developmental needs of donkey in 2017 before the National Council of Agriculture, the highest policy-making body on agriculture in the federation.
He explained that it was on the basis of the report that the government designated donkey skin an export prohibition list item.
Also, Head, Animal Quarantine Department, NAQS, Dr. Abidodun Akinjo, lamented that despite the prohibition, "We noticed that there were considerable donkey skin transactions afoot."
He said:"In the past three months, we have worked hard to disorient the network behind this illicit activity. We found out that foreign naturals were inducing and instigating this wanton depopulation of Nigerian donkeys. Donkey skins is a highly prized raw material in Asia. Knowing that Nigeria has good donkey numbers, they have spent time and resources to cultivate a loyal supply network which makes the overkill and delivers the donkey skin."
According to NAQS, the path forward must lead to the long-term viability of Nigerian donkeys which requires formalising the export trade in donkey skins, setting the code for management of the chain of custody and ensuring that traceability is obtainable at all points and from all angles of human interaction with donkeys.