The Times of Tanzania
Eastern Africa News Network, Breaking News Tanzania

Are Tanzanian donkeys Kicking the basket?

Donkeys, the tough work animals usually taken for granted, are in danger of becoming extinct in Tanzania. Bad treatment and killings targeting these highly resilient animals are just for starters. High rate of illegal trafficking to supplement Chinese drug industry should be the donkey’s last straw.

Tanzania is said to have around 600,000 donkeys, the number is however shrinking whith observers foreseeing total annihilation of these work animals within the next decade.

The Arusha Society for the Protection of Animals (ASPA) Director, Livingstone Masija warned recently that, the main culprit behind donkeys’ disappearance was demand for their hides that produces gelatin to make some highly sought after, traditional Chinese medicine.

“Donkey hides business in Tanzania started in 2014 after special abattoirs to slaughter such animals were established in Dodoma and Shinyanga Regions,” pointed out Masija.

People don’t eat donkey meat in Tanzania which therefore means that all the carcasses could be exported by the two Chinese owned slaughterhouses, alongside the hides and hooves harvested from the killed animals.

And as it turns out, the hides are the flagship products, being the components that are used to manufacture a certain miracle drug in China.

The Sino elixir known as ‘e jiao’ is a concoction made from the skin of donkeys. In recent years, the demand for this supposedly miracle-cure has constantly increased in China and other Asian precincts.

Since it has become nearly impossible to legally obtain the requisite number of donkeys needed to produce the required batch quantity of this sought-after product

As a result donkeys are now regularly captured, stolen and smuggled to the Far East either dead or alive, but preferably dead, for easy shipping to China where the demand is high.

The Board Chair for the Arusha Society for the Protection of Animals (ASPA), Erwin Kinsey pointed out that the importance of donkeys in driving the rural economies cannot be downplayed and the country may suffer drastic consequences if these important animals were left to go extinct.

In its 2020 report, the Donkey Sanctuary claimed that nearly 5 million donkey hides were needed to satisfy the high demand for gelatin to produce ejiao, resulting in steep declines of donkey populations around the world.

From 2010, donkey prices around the world started to escalate rapidly and it was soon discovered that the catalyst was the high demand for Chinese traditional elixir ‘Ejiao).

Later in 2018 several African countries, including Uganda, Tanzania, Botswana, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Senegal banned donkey and their products’ exports to China

In Tanzania donkeys have, for many years, been used as ‘tractors’ to manually cultivate farms, or as ‘trucks’ to ferry heavy goods and even as bowsers to transport water from far-off rivers and wells. The animals also transport people.

Donkeys are mostly found in Northern and Central Regions of Tanzania, especially among farming peasants and nomadic pastoral grazers, they are usually misused, being poorly fed, badly beaten, overburdened and hardly treated whenever injured or sick. —

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