Donkey keepers in Embu and Kirinyaga counties have protested the increased theft of their animals due to high demand of their products, and have appealed to the government to stop licensing more slaughterhouses.
The tens of riders said donkey population in the area was on a steady decline and they could lose their source of livelihoods unless the government curbs the theft.
A recent survey found the number of donkeys had declined from 4,000 to 2,500 in Mwea in the last two years, according to Mwea Donkey Owners Association chairman Cyrus Gitonga.
He said the animals were being sought for their meat and skin by abattoirs, with theft of donkeys at night being frequent.
The donkey population cannot easily be replenished as females produce just one foal a year and are prone to miscarriages under stressful conditions.
The donkey population last year in Kenya stood at 900,000 down from 1.8 million in 1999, according to the Kenya Network for Dissemination of Agricultural Technologies (Kendat).
Kendat, which through its Heshimu Punda Programme champions donkeys’ welfare, has cautioned against plans to license another donkey abattoir in Kithyoko, Machakos County, as that would reduce the donkey population further.
Kendat has been offering free clinics where wounded donkeys are treated, their hooves trimmed, among other services.
Donkey owners called on police to beef up security after they lost tens of donkeys to thieves in the last one year.
Ms Florence Wainaina said the reduction of the animals would be a burden to women who would then have to haul grains, firewood and water on their backs.
“Several times we have woken up to find our donkeys slaughtered and their bones strewn in the bushes.
"We fear the uninspected meat ends up with unscrupulous butchers and is sold to unsuspecting customers disguised as beef,” said Mr Gitonga.
Mr James Gachoki said he was almost pushed out of the donkey transportation business after his three donkeys were stolen from their shed in January, the same night his neighbour also lost two donkeys.
“Donkeys are a source of livelihood for many families in this area and contributes significantly to the booming economy of Mwea.
"They haul bags of rice from rice fields, where other modes of transport are inconvenient, to the market. More than 1,000 people are involved in donkey transport. The government should safeguard our jobs,” said Mr Gachoki.