Two African countries ban donkey exports, thanks to China
Niger and Burkina Faso announced a ban on donkey and donkey skin exports respectively. The ban is a result of massive donkey imports by China, which, if left unchecked, will "decimate" Nigeria and Burkina Faso's donkey population. China's interest in donkeys have affected Africa in myriad ways.
Why does China need so many donkeys?
A traditional and very popular remedy called Ejiao in China is the causal factor behind China's huge donkey imports. Donkey skins are boiled to produce gelatin, one key ingredient of Ejiao. The hard gel is then dissolved in alcohol or hot water to produce Ejiao. Ejiao is believed to improve blood circulation, and cure conditions such as insomnia, dizziness, irregular menstruation etc.
What happened to China's donkey population?
China's donkey population, over the course of the past two decades, has decreased from 11 million to 6 million. According to government data, China's donkey population currently decreases at the rate of 300,000 donkeys a year.
China's effect on Burkina Faso
China's donkey skin imports led to a growth of slaughterhouses in Burkina Faso. Donkey skin exports rose from 1,000 in the first quarter of 2015 to over 18,000 in the last quarter. However, 45,000 of Burkina Faso's 1.4 million donkeys were slaughtered in the period from March-August 2016. Blood and waste from slaughterhouses have also affected groundwater in certain areas.
Burkinabe villagers are angry
At the end of July 2016, villagers from the Balole village in Burkina Faso attacked, ransacked and closed down a nearby donkey slaughterhouse in retaliation over the foul smell of the place, and its polluting effect on the area's groundwater reserves.
China's effect on donkeys in Niger
Compared to 27,000 donkeys exported last year, 80,000 donkeys from Niger have been exported till date in 2016. China's demand for donkeys, apart from affecting Niger's donkey population, has also led to more than a 400% increase in the price of donkeys - from $34 to $145. Consequently, live stock traders are abandoning trade of other animals, resulting in economic and ecological consequences.
China's effect on other African countries
China's insatiable demand for donkeys has left several other African countries affected in different ways. In 2015, in anticipation of exporting donkeys to China, South Africa was considering starting a training program for farmers. It has also led to a growth of slaughter houses in Kenya. Countries like Botswana and Zimbabwe have seen a recent surge in donkey skin smuggling.