16 June 2021

Brooke West Africa hosts conference on the devastating impact of the donkey skin trade in Africa

Stakeholders gathered in Burkina Faso from 8-9 June to discuss the devastating impact of the donkey skin trade on donkey populations and communities across Africa, and pledged to work on a cross-regional approach to protecting the species.

Speakers at the conference, hosted by Brooke West Africa, included Raphael Kinoti, Regional Director of Brooke East Africa, Dr Hiver Boussini of AU-IBAR, Joseph Savadogo of the ECOWAS Regional Animal Health Centre, Dr Otieno of The Donkey Sanctuary, and Dr Gisele Pare of the Ministry of Livestock, Burkina Faso.

The donkey skin trade is fuelled by growing demand for ejiao, a gelatin used in Traditional Chinese Medicine that is made by boiling down donkey skin. Africa remains the primary source of both legally and illegally-sourced donkey skins to China.

The agenda included presentations on the socio-economic importance of donkeys and the impacts of the trade on livelihoods throughout Africa, as well as the very real threat to the future of the species and the dangers to animal health amid cross border smuggling.

Addressing the room, Dr Boussini said: “Donkeys are an integral part of the African household. It’s now time to reach decision makers to take this neglected species into account within their policies.”

He added: “We have not yet crossed the red line where donkeys are endangered, but we need to put strong measures in place, across all countries.”

The demand is currently estimated to be 4.8 million skins each year, which means that almost half of the world’s donkeys could be wiped out in the next five years. The trade is believed to be active in Ghana, Nigeria, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Uganda, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya, and Egypt, as well as outside of Africa in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Brazil.

In Kenya, a court recently lifted a ban on the slaughter of donkeys for their skins, giving the green light for slaughterhouses to begin trading again.