Issue 719 - Page 21

China . The Southeast Asian nation not only recognizes that smuggling of donkey skins takes place but that it is set to increase , according to the 2021 market analysis paper by the Donkey Branch of the China Animal Husbandry Association . This is because some enterprises that do not abide by the law are likely to increase their willingness to smuggle and participate in the illegal trade . In many cases , however , the trade in donkey skins is itself illegal , since a growing number of countries have banned the export of donkey skins in an attempt to safeguard national donkey populations and the communities who depend on them .
Despite this , donkeys are being slaughtered , and their skins exported in direct defiance of national prohibitions , and recipient government administrations are complicit in this , a practice which undermines national efforts to protect donkey populations .
Chinese customs authorities oblige source country donkey slaughter and export facilities to register with them for the purposes of bio-security , veterinary and quarantine regulations .
However , these facilities are frequently located in countries where an export prohibition of skins , either directly ( Nigeria , Benin , Ghana ) or because countries have withdrawn licences from donkey slaughter houses ( Kenya , Tanzania ).
Global shipping
The links between the global donkey skin trade and wildlife trafficking extend beyond products being offered for sale alongside each other .
Seizure records maintained by customs authorities show that donkey skins are shipped alongside products from a wide range of wild animals , including those that are listed by the UN ’ s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna ( CITES ).
Customs seizure reports and records , as well as news reports obtained by WildC- RU show evidence of donkey skins being shipped with elephant tusks , pangolin scales , abalone , sea cucumber , shark fins , tiger skins and fish maw .
Many of these items are CITES Appendix I listed meaning that commercial trade is either entirely illegal or at least tightly controlled . Traders exporting donkey skins can simply designate their cargo under one of the internationally recognized Harmonized system or HS codes which is the standardized numerical method of classifying traded products .
Customs authorities globally use the HS system to identify products when assessing duties and taxes , and for gathering statistics but shippers are under no obligation to provide any more detailed description of the consignment .
A single HS code 410120 covers all equine and bovine-derived skins , and this vagueness is routinely exploited by exporters who provide either ambiguous descriptions or no description at all .
For example , analysis of 410120 exports from South Africa , which has a national slaughter quota of 12,000 donkeys for export of skins to China , found only nine consignment records , none with descriptions and all from 2017 .
This practice is regularly seen in wildlife trafficking according to TRAFFIC , a leading NGO working globally on issues of trade in wild animals and plants in the context of both biodiversity conservation and sustainable development .
TRAFFIC notes : “ Descriptions of commodities are vague or misleading .” Examples of vague descriptions for wildlife shipments include ; “ shell ,” “ horn ,” and “ rosewood ” ( there are many species of rosewood , some of which can be traded legally , and others prohibited from international trade ). Up to 500 consignments of 410120 from known donkey skin source countries were examined .
While the lack of specificity of the 410120 code makes it impossible to know precisely what was in each of the consignments , the majority were either listed as donkey or equine skins or were shipped by known donkey skin exporters and received by known donkey skin importers .
The analysis has revealed that donkey skins may be being sourced and shipped from much more diverse range of countries than had previously realized . There is also no explicable reason for the huge variation in average values for the consignments going to China and those to Vietnam and Hong Kong .
Only 17 consignments of 410120 , valued at US $ 2.7 million were recorded from Africa to China . Details of shippers are not listed and quantities of products are not recorded .
But , based on the documented data about the scale of the trade in Africa , these consignments only represent a fraction , less than 1 % of the actual numbers of skins exported from Africa over the five year period .
Donkey populations declining
Trade in processed donkey skin , which is considered a “ miracle cure ” has been flourishing in recent years in China . And so has been the demand for donkeys .
Yet the breeding of donkeys cannot cope with the demand . Donkeys are said to have an average gestation period of 12-13 months and they usually give birth to one foal every 3-4 years . But that has not stopped Chinese ejiao dealers to source for and slaughter the donkeys at will .
When they were first approached by Chinese dealers , African countries saw it as another big trade opportunity . But the demand was simply too much .
Countries such as Zimbabwe , Burkina
News ANALysis
Faso , Mali and Ghana opposed and imposed licence freezes . Others such as South Sudan , Uganda , Senegal , Botswana , Sudan and Niger banned the export or trade of the donkey skins to China .
But others saw an economic opportunity in overseas trading partners — and approved the construction of donkey slaughterhouses through Chinese investments . East Africa soon turned into a centre of the donkey skin trade within a few years , escalating the illegal donkey trade .
Since 2016 , Welttierschutzgesellschaft e . V , a German animal welfare non-profit has observed an increasing number of donkey thefts , first in Tanzania and also in Kenya especially in the remote villages where people live with three to four donkeys for self-sufficiency .
In Uganda , poor farmers in the north-eastern Elgon sub-region which neighbours Kenya recently told local broadcaster , NTV , how they have been losing donkeys to thieves .
They attribute the theft to increased prices of donkeys , which now costs Shs 1.2 million per head , a price which is almost six times the cost the animal used to be bought . According to farmers , most of the stolen donkeys are sold to buyers in neighbouring Kenya who slaughter and harvest their skins before they are shipped to China .
The Uganda Bureau of Statistics ( UBOS ) is expected to conduct a national livestock census this year . But according to the last census conducted in 2008 , there were about 150,000 donkeys in Uganda ; 90 % of which were found in the north-eastern semi-arid region of Karamoja .
But , apparently , their numbers have since dwindled by more than half . According to a recent mini-survey done with the help of district veterinary officers around Uganda , there are just about 50,000 donkeys left in Uganda .
Going forward , The Donkey Sanctuary is calling on all eCommerce and social media sites to immediately ban the sale of donkey skins and remove all existing listings from their platforms .
“ The inhumane and unregulated donkey skin trade is among the biggest global threats to donkeys today . The suffering donkeys experience at the hands of this trade cannot be understated ,” said Steele , the Acting CEO of The Donkey Sanctuary .
“ Beyond this , every donkey stolen and slaughtered by traffickers leaves behind a family that relies on it to support their livelihood ; often , it is the most vulnerable in these communities who suffer most .”
It is estimated that up to ten million communities in the developing world rely on working donkeys , and where they are stolen , women and girls pick up the ‘ donkey work ’ left behind , denying many girls the opportunity to continue with their education .
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