In an alarming find, a survey conducted in 2021-22 has shown that the number of Halari donkeys has dwindled to 439 in its native tract of Saurashtra, down from about 1,200 as found in the survey of 2015.
This elegant donkey from the Halar region of Saurashtra is currently in a threatened state and requires immediate steps towards conservation to reverse the declining trend in its population.
The unavailability of male Halari donkey for breeding and disincentives to Halari donkey rearers with no avenues associated with streamlining the livelihoods (based on donkey milk) are among the different challenges faced by the breed.
Halari donkey is one of the important livestocks in the semi-arid landscape of Saurashtra’s Jamnagar and Dwarka regions. The Bharwad and Rabari pastoralists are the main communities, which use this donkey as a pack animal to carry luggage during migration with small ruminants.
These pastoralists regularly migrate to other districts. Pastoral women, generally, take care of the Halari donkeys. The Kumbhar (potter) community also uses this animal for pottery work in Dwarka, a release from the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying said.
Earlier, Union Minister of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Parshottam Rupala, addressed the Saurashtra Maldhari Sammelan organised by Sahjeevan (Centre for Pastoralism) at Upleta in Rajkot district.
Manoj Mishra, Executive Director, Sahjeevan, said that pastoralists have developed a significant proportion of India’s livestock breeds – 73 out of 200 officially recognised ones. These breeds are very special, being on the one hand very alert, resilient, hardy and independent, but also bonded to their herders in a symbiotic relationship. Halari breed of donkeys is one among them.
With the theme ‘Fostering Pastoralism in Saurashtra – Conservation and its Sustenance’, the event deliberated upon the conservation of threatened breeds of livestock, particularly the Halari breed of donkey.
Rupala also released a book ‘Pastoral Breeds of India’ compiled by Sahjeevan on the occasion.
Interacting with the Maldharis, particularly Halari breeders, Rupala said, “The National Livestock Mission (NLM) has been designed to cover all the activities required to ensure quantitative and qualitative improvement in livestock production systems and capacity building of all stakeholders.”