Africa’s Donkeys Are Coveted by China. Can the Continent Protect Them?

For years, Chinese companies and their contractors have been slaughtering millions of donkeys across Africa, coveting gelatin from the animals’ hides that is processed into traditional medicines, popular sweets and beauty products in China.

But a growing demand for the gelatin has decimated donkey populations at such alarming rates in African countries that governments are now moving to put a brake on the mostly unregulated trade.

The African Union, a body that encompasses the continent’s 55 states, adopted a continentwide ban on donkey skin exports this month in the hope that stocks will recover.

Rural households across Africa rely on donkeys for transportation and agriculture.

Yet donkeys only breed a foal every couple of years.

“A means of survival in Africa fuels the demand for luxury products from the middle class in China,” said Emmanuel Sarr, who heads the West Africa regional office of Brooke, a nongovernment organization based in London that works to protect donkeys and horses.

“This cannot continue.”

China is the main trading partner for many African countries. But in recent years its companies have been increasingly criticized for depleting the continent’s natural resources, from minerals to fish and now donkey skins, a censure once largely aimed at Western countries.

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