A new report has found traders illegally selling donkey skins on social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. According to the investigation, donkey skins are in high demand for ejiao, a traditional Chinese remedy.
Traders are ignoring bans on sales of donkey skins, including in Kenya, Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria and Burkina Faso, even listing the animal parts in high quantities on social media. On Facebook, a trader in Kenya listed 2,000 donkey skins for sale on Facebook at $40 per skin. Many sellers even acknowledge the illegality of the sales in their advertising and communications with potential buyers, outlining exactly how they avoid punishment.
“Donkey skin is prohibited in Kenya as of now and we ship under total discretion alongside heavy bribery to the port authorities. Chinese residents are completely banned dealing with donkey skin in Kenya. We have 2,000 skins available now and priced at $40 per skin. If you are interested, we can start shipping smaller quantities to avoid too much questioning. We can start with 500 skins,” a supplier told investigators from The Donkey Sanctuary, which published the report.
The donkey skins are sought after to make a form of gelatin for ejiao, which is believed to have medicinal properties, as reported by The Guardian. According to the report, published by The Donkey Sanctuary, 20 countries have trade deals with China to allow for donkey skin trading, but China is receiving donkey skins from over 50 countries.
The investigation also found over 382 individual vendors listing donkey skins for sale online, along with other wildlife parts. Over 20% of the vendors selling donkey skins online were selling parts from a total of 11 other species, including endangered species such as pangolins, elephants, and tigers. Aside from skins, traders were illegally selling furs, teeth, scales, tusks, and even live cheetah cubs.
Social media and online websites are failing to crack down on the illegal trading. According to the report, many platforms that joined the Global Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online with a commitment to reduce these sales by 80% have not come close to meeting the target.
“Online trading platforms have a greater role to play in detecting and addressing illegal activity occurring on their sites,” the report said. “Until they do, the donkey skin trade will continue to act as a Trojan horse for the sale and shipping of wildlife products.”
Each year, an estimated 4.8 million donkeys are slaughtered for the donkey skin trade. The theft and murder of these donkeys hurts communities that rely on the animals for their livelihoods, and the unhygienic slaughtering process puts public health at risk. Further, the report noted that the donkey skin trade is often tied with other highly organized international crimes, including illegal selling of other wildlife, hardwoods, and Class A drugs.