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Donkeys are the primary working partners of farming families in Africa and particularly in Burkina Faso. As the only working/transport animal accessible to the poorest, they have become indispensable in all day-to-day activities in the countryside.

The socio-economic benefit of the donkey is evident and, with its many roles, it contributes to the livelihoods of the poorest rural populations (agricultural traction) and local economies (ferrying firewood, water and food).

Its disappearance would have dramatic consequences for farming families and yet there is already a decline in the numbers of this livestock that has been growing for decades.

The cause: skin trafficking to China!

Clandestine smuggling, village theft, corruption, inflation; all these ingredients combine to destabilize and impoverish the rural populations who live with their donkeys on a daily basis.

Thanks, among other things, to the Burkinabe Farmer Confederation, which alerted the authorities, a decree was issued in July 2016 regulating the slaughter and the export donkey skins.

But the trafficking and the massacre continues!

The government of Burkina must put in place all measures to ensure that this new regulation is finally respected.

The local campaigners fighting for the defense of donkeys note that clandestine slaughtering has not reduced and demand the application of the measures taken in the decree dated July 2016.

We, the signatories, NGOs, individuals, farmer organizations, associations and trade unions hereby ask the Burkinabe authorities to take all possible measures to enforce their regulations and to stop the trafficking.


Some press release on the subject:

China's demand for African donkeys prompts export bans (The Guardian, 13 September 2016)

Niger and Burkina Faso take action as thriving market for animal skin threatens local populations and leads to price increases, the Daily Maverick reports

Humans owe a lot to the humble donkey. Domesticated for more than five millennia, they have been used for everything from farming to warfare.

But as the world has industrialised, only the very poorest communities still rely on donkeys for their day-to-day needs and nowhere is this more apparent than in China: after two decades of economic growth, the country’s donkey population has dropped by almost half.

This decline has had an unintended consequence for traditional medicine. When boiled, donkey skin produces a rubbery, gelatine-like substance, known as ejiao, which is included in many popular Chinese tonics and medicines for its perceived ability to cure coughs, relieve insomnia and revitalise the blood.

But these days, there simply aren’t enough Chinese donkeys to make enough ejiao, so manufacturers are turning to Africa, where donkey populations remain in rude health.

In Niger, some 80,000 donkeys have been exported to China this year, compared with 27,000 in 2015. In Burkina Faso, donkey traders sold 18,000 animals to international buyers in the first quarter of 2016, up from just 1,000 for the same period last year.

In Kenya, a donkey abattoir opened in April in Naivasha to cater for the burgeoning Chinese market.

But this thriving export market is not without considerable drawbacks for local people. In Niger, the price of donkeys has risen from $34 to $147, a huge rise for farmers and merchants who need to buy donkeys to maintain their livelihoods. Officials are also worried that the demand for exports will decimate local donkey populations. In response, the government has banned donkey exports.

Burkina Faso implemented similar regulations last month. In Ouagadougou, the situation was reportedly discussed twice in cabinet meetings before the ban was announced.

In South Africa, meanwhile, the surge in demand has led to a rise in cruelty towards, and theft of, donkeys. In a statement released this month the National Council of Societies for the Protection of Animals (NSPCA) said it was “horrified to confirm that donkeys are the latest victims of the trade in animal parts ‘for medicinal purposes’ to the far east. Donkeys are being rounded up, stolen, then transported and brutally slaughtered for their skins.”

The NSPCA cited one incident in which 70 “sick, weak and emaciated” donkeys were discovered on a plot outside Bloemfontein. The owner confirmed he intended to ship their skins to China.

 Why China can't get enough donkeys (BBC News)
Burkina Faso has banned the export of donkey skins as a sharp increase in sales to Asia is threatening the animal's population.  

Donkeys have been "over-exploited" and their numbers needed to be kept at a sustainable level, the government said.

Burkina Faso, a poor West African state, has about 1.4 million donkeys.

Exports of the skin rose from 1,000 in the first quarter of 2015 to more than 18,000 in the last quarter, the Burkinabe authorities say.

Nearly 65,000 skins were exported in the first six months of this year, mostly to China.

Its donkey population has been dwindling because of low fertility rates and the long rearing period, causing a a shortage of hides used to produce a traditional medicine known as "ejiao", according to a report in January in the China Daily newspaper. The medicine is taken mostly by women who suffer from anaemia, dry coughs or dizziness.

Massacre of Donkeys – latest victims of cruel trade in animal parts ( NSPCA 05/09/2016)

The National Council of SPCAs is horrified to confirm that donkeys are the latest victims of the trade in animal parts “for medicinal purposes” to the Far East.

Donkeys are being rounded up /stolen, then transported and brutally slaughtered for their skins.

In one confirmed instance, 42 donkeys were stolen in the North West province village of Mmaku. The Asian owner of the property where the bodies of the donkeys were found has admitted to stealing the donkeys, slaughtering and skinning them and claiming that “they make good medicine.”

The Bloemfontein SPCA investigated an issue involving 70 sick, weak and emaciated donkeys on a plot outside the city. According to workers, the donkeys had been on the property for two weeks without food or water. Some had aborted and dead foetuses were found on the ground. The owner of the donkeys stated that he was only interested in the skins to export to China. The donkeys were humanely euthanased and criminal charges in terms of the Animals Protection Act have been laid.

Donkey hide contains a gelatine which is claimed to be valued for medicinal purposes: – according to the China Daily newspaper, having anti-aging properties, able to treat insomnia and improving blood circulation. The gelatine is a key ingredient in China’s ejiao industry, which produces tablets, tonics and a sweet syrup. The skins are soaked and stewed to produce or release this substance.

Over and above the horrendous cruelty to the donkeys, it is noted that individuals and communities are suffering as their livelihoods and often their only means of transportation are being taken from them or purchased for money.

This issue is international and syndicated. Police raids in Botswana and Zimbabwe confirm links with this trade to China and Hong Kong.


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