Issue 719 - Page 20

News ANALysis

‘ E-commerce platforms driving donkeys into extinction ’

Research shows donkey skins are being sourced and shipped from more countries than earlier thought

By Ronald Musoke

Organised criminals are exploiting online social media platforms such as Facebook , Twitter , Instagram and WeChat to facilitate the smuggling and trade in donkey skins , according to a new report published by The Donkey Sanctuary — a UK-based animal welfare non-profit organisation .

The report titled “ The Global Trade in Donkey Skins : A Ticking Time Bomb ,” estimates that over 4.8 million donkeys from around the world are trafficked and slaughtered for their skins every year . Of these , close to 42 % are illegally trafficked to satisfy the ever growing demand for ejiao , a traditional Chinese remedy .
The continuous demand from the ejiao industry has had a significant impact on donkey populations and economic prospects to the families who rely on the animals for their livelihoods .
The report notes that majority of organised criminals operating online often offer donkey skins for sale , alongside other illegal wildlife products including rhino horns , pangolin scales , elephant ivory and tiger hides .
The Donkey Sanctuary ’ s report citing the findings of a research paper by an interdisciplinary team from Oxford University ’ s Saïd Business School and the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit ( WildCRU ), unearthed evidence of 382 individual traders on business-to-business ( B2B ) eCommerce sites offering donkey hides and almost 20 % of those traders were also selling other wildlife products .
In some extreme cases , the traders were additionally trafficking narcotics , fake passports and human hair , providing further evidence of how deeply the donkey skin trade is embedded in organised crime .
With the creation of a data set of nearly 15,000 product offerings including wildlife , the scale of the problem is so extensive that The Donkey Sanctuary identified several traders openly admitting to the illegality of their merchandise , and even offering prospective buyers information on how they will avoid the skins being intercepted by the
A donkey seen carrying jerry cans of water in the northeastern district of Kween . Poor farmers say there is a spike in donkey theft in their villages due to unprecedented demand from neighbouring Kenya . PHOTO / BILLY RWOTHUNGEYO
authorities during transit . “ There is no doubt that the global ejiao trade is having a devastating impact on the welfare of donkeys around the world , which suffer at every point from source to slaughter ,” said Marianne Steele , the Acting CEO of The Donkey Sanctuary .
“ This new research demonstrates just how vast the online donkey skin trade has become , and how entrenched it is with criminal activity and other illegal wildlife trafficking .”
“ By cracking down on the sale of donkey skins on their platforms , eCommerce and social media sites will not only prevent considerable cruelty to donkeys , but also help eliminate the other criminal activity that is taking place alongside it and support thousands of families who rely on their donkeys to survive ,” she said .
“ Our work brings together concerns about wildlife conservation , animal welfare and the well-being of some of the world ’ s poorest communities , all around the unexpected focal point of donkeys ,” added Dr Ewan Macdonald , a postdoctoral research fellow at Saïd Business School and co-author of the “ Link between Wildlife Trade and the Global Donkey Skin Product Network .”
The research has , for the first time , shown a scientific link between the wider wildlife trade and donkey skin sales especially in
18 May . 20 -26 2022