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China Ravaging Africa's Donkey Population

Published: 4th Mar, 2024

Context

The increasing demand for donkey gelatin in China has led to a significant decline in donkey populations across Africa, prompting African governments to address the issue through regulation.

The Species

  • The donkey is a domesticated equine.
  • Family: It belongs to the horsefamily, Equidae, and descended from the African wild ass (Equusafricanus).
  • Donkeys are highly resistant to harsh climate conditions and can carry heavy loads for a sustained period of time, making them a prized resource in some areas in Africa.

What is the issue?

  • Millions of donkeys, especially in Africa, are being smuggled and slaughtered every year.
  • What for? A traditional Chinese medicinal remedy that uses gelatin from donkey skin has seen rising demand in recent years. The population of donkeys has plummeted dramatically in China and now those in Africa stare at a crisis. Watch this report for details.

China’s Donkey Trade

  • China’s donkey skin trade is the key component of a multibillion-dollar industry for what the Chinese call ejiao, or donkey gelatin.
  • It is a traditional medicine recognized by China’s health authorities, but whose actual benefits remain debated among doctors and researchers in China.
  • Vendors of traditional Chinese medicine and health food companies have marketed ejiao as having potential benefits for people with circulatory, gynecological or respiratory issues.
  • Ejiao-based food products have flourished: pastries made with ejiao, walnuts, sesame and sugar have become a popular snack across China; a well-known brand of a tea beverage has targeted young consumers with ejiao milk tea.

Key-decision taken by Africa

  • The African Union, a body that encompasses the continent’s 55 states, adopted a continentwide ban on donkey skin exports this month in the hope that stocks will recover.
  • Some African countries, like Ethiopia, Ivory Coast and Tanzania, have already implemented nationwide bans on donkey skin exports.

Africa is home to 60 percent of the world’s donkeys. Ethiopia is home to the largest population of donkeys in Africa.

Why the trade is still prevalent EVEN after ban?

  • Porous borders and lax implementation of fines have made it difficult to stem the trade.
  • For instance, in West Africa, donkeys are being trafficked from landlocked countries before they are slaughtered in often gruesome conditions in border areas with nations that have access to the sea. The pelts are then exported through cargo ports.
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