Chinese firms have recently developed a great interest in donkeys from Africa, with the trade of African donkeys to China recording a three-fold surge in 2016, according to CNN. The growing demand for African donkeys in Asia has seen several African countries issue a ban on the export of these animals, including Burkina Faso, which claims that its reserve of 1.4 million donkeys are being over-exploited due to trade with China.
While most African countries appreciate doing business with China, many are now questioning the unprecedented interest in African donkeys by the Chinese market.
The donkey population in China has been on a steady decline since the 1990s, with the Financial Express reporting that the total number has dropped from 11 million to about 6 million over the last two decades.
Part of the reason why donkeys are in high demand in China is because their skin is an important component in the production of a traditional medicine called “ejiao.” Donkey skin is boiled to produce gelatin, which is an important component of the medicine.
A Kenyan-based Chinese national feeds donkeys on his farm. Photo Credit: The Star
Ejiao is used to treat a number of diseases, including insomnia, dizziness, and irregular menstruation. Studies show that the medicine also helps to improve blood circulation and can be used to treat anemia.
It is normally dissolved in alcohol or hot water, but can also be used as a cream to treat leg ulcers.
The medicine is so popular in China that most people use it to treat themselves without even seeking a doctor’s opinion.
Chinese medical expert, Mazin Al-Khafaji, noted that there is an acute shortage of this medicine in the country, which has forced pharmaceutical companies to turn to Africa.
Many experts in China are now calling for government support of donkey breeders in order to satisfy the growing demand and reduce dependence on imports.