Donkey populations under threat due to brutal skins trade


Donkey populations under threat due to brutal skins trade

22 February 2024
The Donkey Sanctuary
The little-known demand for donkey skins, used in the production of ejiao (a traditional Chinese remedy), is driving a global trade that is opportunistic, brutal and unsustainable. The Donkey Sanctuary’s new report reveals how donkeys are suffering in their millions, and animal dependent communities are severely impacted.

The Donkey Sanctuary has released the Donkeys in Global Trade briefing report, which delves into the profound impact that the donkey skin trade has on donkeys across the globe and the communities that depend on them. 

The report sheds light on the often overlooked but devastating consequences of the donkey skin trade, including exploitation, cruelty, and population decline.

The donkey skins are used for the production of ejiao, a traditional Chinese remedy. Production has seen an estimated 160% increase over the past 5 years, meaning that around 6 million donkeys, and potentially many more, are being killed each year to fuel the trade.

This trade places pressure on donkey populations globally. This is particularly true in Africa where many people rely on donkeys for their livelihoods, transport, agricultural operations and to access essential resources such as food and water.

Donkeys in Global Trade briefing report, The Donkey Sanctuary

The trade has become so profitable that donkey populations have dramatically declined in many animal dependent areas; for example in Kenya, it is estimated that around half the country's donkey population was slaughtered between 2016 and 2019 in order to sell skins.

To meet the relentless demand for skins, donkeys are bought, captured or stolen, including from donkey-dependent communities. In many cases donkeys are walked for days, often across national borders; they are transported and held with scant regard for their suffering; and they are slaughtered, often in the most horrific ways.

Donkeys in Global Trade briefing report, The Donkey Sanctuary

The impacts of the trade are severe and varied, with the top concerns being:

  • Donkey welfare;
  • Wildlife crime convergence;
  • Biosecurity risks;
  • The impact on women and communities;
  • Implications for the Sustainable Development Goals.

Following the report's publication, African state leaders approved a continent-wide ban on the donkey skin trade at the conclusion of the African Union summit in Ethiopia on 18 February.