PAPER (Albania) • On a small farm south of Tirana, donkeys happily munch on hay while customers flock to scoop up bottles of their milk – a niche product winning fans who believe in its health benefits.
Touted as rich in vitamins and as a boost for the immune system, the high-priced milk has been flying off the shelves during the coronavirus pandemic – a time when many in Albania are looking for an extra health kick.
The demand for donkey milk is rising sharply alongside virus infections, says Mr Elton Kikia, 37, manager of the small farm in the village of Paper, where around a dozen of the small, knobbly-kneed animals romp around a green pasture.
The high demand is good news for the donkeys, whose comfortable lifestyle on the farm is a welcome respite from their traditional roles as beasts of burden.
Typically enlisted to carry heavy loads and pull carts through Albania’s mountainous terrain, donkeys are frequently subject to mistreatment in the form of beatings, overwork or saddle sores.
“It is a very delicate animal, which needs tenderness and love to produce its milk,” says Mr Kikia.