A number of African countries have banned China from buying their donkeys, saying demand for the four-legged creatures has become unsustainable. Niger announced a ban on the export of donkeys this month after trade of the animals increased by three times in the last year, mainly to Asian countries. A Niger government official, told the BBC that around 80,000 donkeys had been exported from the landlocked African country this year compared to 27,000 last year. And Burkina Faso has also put a stop to the export of donkey skins. The country’s public health director Adama Maiga aid exports in hides had soared from 1,000 in the first quarter of 2015 to more than 18,000 in the last quarter. Now all slaughter would have to be done in “officially recognised” abattoirs. Two Chinese nationals have set up a donkey slaughterhouse in west Kenya. The government approved the new abattoir, where around 100 donkeys could be killed a day and exported to China.
Increased demand for imported donkey skins follows a dramatic drop in China’s donkey population as the country has industrialised. The number of donkeys in China has fallen from 11 million to six million since the 1990s. Ejiao is a popular ingredient in China that people may self-prescribe. Donkey skins are boiled to produce gelatin, a key ingredient in the traditional Chinese remedy ejiao – believed to improve blood circulation and cure conditions including dizziness, irregular menstruation and insomnia. Chinese medicine expert Mazin Al-Khafaji told The Independent. “But there is a shortage, and there are fakes around as it’s very expensive. It’s what we call a blood tonic, so it stops bleeding and strengthens the blood. It’s used for anemia or low blood cell count. It’s a hard gel, made from donkey hide, which is then dissolved in hot water or alcohol. It’s also used topically in a cream, for leg ulcers for instance.”