An outbreak of strangles has claimed the lives of more than 4000 donkeys in the west African country of Niger since early December.
Officials say that more than 8000 donkeys were affected by the contagious bacterial infection, which is also known as equine distemper, and more than half succumbed since the infection appeared in the first 10 days of December in the north of the country in Agadez, Niger’s gateway to the Sahara.
Official statistics show Niger has a population of more than 1.5 million donkeys.
The Ingall area was the worst affected, and the government’s minister for pastoral issues, Mohamed Boucha, visited Agadez this week to assess the impact of the outbreak.
“You can see bodies littering the pastureland and the watering holes and there is a real danger of contamination spreading through the area,” he said.
Veterinary officials said the strangles risk was heightened as the treatment of a sick animal can take several weeks, and the infection can be transferred between equines and through the pasture itself.
Herders in the area have been invited to have their donkeys immunised for free by government veterinary services.
Donkeys are used by millions of people to get around in Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world.
In recent years the survival of donkeys in Africa has been threatened by the Chinese traditional medicine market, which uses their skins for Ejiao. But in 2016, the government placed a strict ban on the slaughter and slaughter of donkeys.