Millions of animals killed over donkey skin trafficking




African News Agency


A NEW report from The Donkey Sanctuary has revealed the donkey skin trade has morphed into an online trafficking network that is transporting millions of donkeys to their deaths. The report found thousands of live listings on unregulated e-commerce sites and social media platforms such as Facebook, where organised criminals exploit online channels to facilitate inhumane donkey skin trade in order to meet the demand of the traditional Chinese remedy industry. More than 4.8 million donkeys were reported to be trafficked and slain each year for their skins, which are used in the creation of ejiao (donkey hide gelatine). The report goes on to describe how donkeys suffer at every stage of the process, from birth to slaughter, because of the brutal and inhumane conditions that are common in this industry. Even the most vulnerable donkeys, such as pregnant mares, young foals and the sick and injured, are taken and traded. The Donkey Sanctuary’s report referenced the findings of The Link Between Wildlife Trade and the Global Donkey Skin Product Network, which is a research paper by a multidisciplinary team from Oxford University’s Saïd Business School and Wildlife Conservation Research Unit. The research identified 382 traders who sold donkey skins on large B2B e-commerce websites. The researchers then analysed the full basket of goods that each trader offered for sale, creating a dataset of almost 15 000 product offerings, including wildlife products. Post-doctoral research fellow at Saïd Business School and co-author of the research paper, Dr Ewan Macdonald, said the issue was important because customers shopping for donkey skins could easily stumble across other products for sale alongside the skins, potentially contributing to the ever-worsening biodiversity crisis. “We found almost 20% of donkey skin traders operating online also sell some form of wildlife product, including species of conservation concern such as elephant ivory, pangolin scales and big cat parts,” said Macdonald. Tactical response lead at The Donkey Sanctuary, Simon Pope, said a number of the donkey skin traders on e-commerce sites claimed to be based in the Western Cape, and many of them claimed to be able to source hundreds of donkey skins every month, far more than South Africa’s total annual donkey slaughter quota of 12 000 per annum. “E-commerce has become such a huge part of the way society buys and sells goods. And our report has revealed just how much the global online marketplace has become tainted by criminality, with traders offering donkey skins alongside ivory, rhino horn, Class A drugs and even human body parts. “Our research found over 80 different traders on different e-commerce sites selling wildlife items including ivory, pangolin scales and lion skins alongside donkey skins. Donkey skins were being offered by traders based in countries with bans on the sale and slaughter of donkeys, such as Kenya and Nigeria. When we contacted the e-commerce sites that act as platforms for these traders, asking them to take down the pages, only one responded,” said Pope. Speaking on the importance of donkeys, Pope added that the continuous demand from the ejiao industry has a significant impact on donkey populations as many donkeys slaughtered for the ejiao trade are stolen from families who rely on them for their livelihoods, with devastating consequences for their economic prospects. “Donkeys support the lives of more than 500 million people worldwide. “For donkey owners, the real value of their working animal is the support it provides to them in sustaining their livelihoods, which is more valuable than a small handful of rand. “The income they provide helps sustain communities, enables children to attend school and gives people independence, equality and empowerment. “A stolen donkey can destroy all those things, and as demand for donkeys rises, so does their price, making buying a replacement unaffordable. “E-commerce sites should prohibit the sale of donkey skins, which will simultaneously cut off an income stream for organised criminals that have been profiting from it and use it as a vehicle for the illegal wildlife trade. “For the same reasons, governments, enforcement bodies and shipping must all play their part by either refusing to allow the slaughter of donkeys, cracking down on illegal donkey skin traders or refusing to carry consignments of skins,” said Pope.