MUMBAI In the middle of the night, police cars were in hot pursuit of thieves on a dusty road in India, finally catching them and recovering the goods. But it wasn't gold jewellery the gang had stolen, it was eight donkeys.
The animals were being rustled from Maharashtra state and sold in neighboring Andhra Pradesh, where some communities believe eating donkey meat can increase strength and virility.
Demand for donkeys cannot be met in Andhra Pradesh itself as their numbers have been falling as farmers replace them with machines. So the thieves saw an opportunity.
The gang was selling each donkey for 10,000 rupees ($152), R.R. Sayad, an assistant police inspector, told Reuters.
The thieves had modified a pick-up truck with stalls so they could nab up to 10 donkeys at a time and had made several trips in the last few months, Sayad said.
Indian farmers never secure donkeys with a rope, as they do with sacred cows or buffaloes, making the gang's job easier. Police suspect there might be more donkey rustlers on the prowl.
"Now many farmers are approaching us and informing us about missing donkeys," Sayad said.
(Reporting by Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by John O'Callaghan and Robert Birsel)