Donkeys from SA stolen for skins
THE DEMAND for donkeys is exploding in South Africa to feed the “cruel demand” for their skins in Asian countries, where they are highly prized as a purported tonic to prevent ageing and boost the immune system.
In the most recent case, this week a team from the Polokwane SPCA had to euthanase 41 donkeys intercepted while being transported from Limpopo to an equine abattoir in Randfontein.
The burgeoning trade is “cruel, horrendous and despicable”, said Grace de Lange, head of the NSPCA’s farm animal unit
“There is a lot of illegal slaughter going on. Donkeys can be slaughtered in South Africa, but (specific) methods of killing and transporting them must be adhered to.”
Annemarie van Zijl, of the Eseltjiesrus donkey sanctuary in McGregor, said there was increasing evidence the donkey skin trade was “working its way southwards” from other parts of Africa.
“Very small rural settlements depend entirely on donkeys to transport their water, crops and materials to local market. The value of their skin is phenomenally higher than any live donkey in South Africa. The entire population can be wiped out like this,” she said.
In the Limpopo case, 41 donkeys were loaded onto a flat bed truck with slippery metal flooring and makeshift wooden pole side rails.
“Most of the animals were in a state of collapse, crushed, dead or dying. Humane emergency euthanasia was undertaken to end the suffering of these poor animals,” De Lange said.
The four men responsible, all foreign nationals, were denied bail. Their case was postponed to Wednesday, when they face several charges of animal cruelty.
“Donkeys are being stolen and communities are selling them to people who are rounding them up for this trade in China. It’s very worrying and I don’t think we’ve even scraped the surface. We’re getting more and more reports and are following several leads.”
Donkey hide contains gelatine, which people believe is valuable for medicinal purposes, including having anti-ageing properties, treating insomnia and improving blood circulation.
The gelatine is a key ingredient in an industry which makes tablets, tonics and a sweet syrup, according to the NSPCA.
In recent months, Burkino Faso and Niger have reportedly banned the export of donkeys to China, where donkey populations have plummeted.