Don­keys from SA stolen for skins

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - SHEREE BEGA

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.

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