China’s demand for donkey hide to produce herbal medicine is decimating the animal population in Kenya, according to a new report by France 24, a French television network.
Furthermore, local farmers who depend on the animals for farm labor and transportation are seeing their livelihoods being threatened.
“E jiao” is a type of traditional Chinese medicine made by boiling down donkey hide, then extracting its gelatin and mixing it with a variety of herbs. A Chinese state television report once explained that about three jin (a Chinese unit of measurement equal to half a kilogram) of donkey hide only begets one jin of “e jiao.”
Touted in ancient medicinal texts for their healing properties such as helping pregnant women with reproductive organ ailments, stopping coughs, and relieving insomnia, the medicine is considered a luxury product. In recent years, China’s wealthy elite have consumed “e jiao” as a status symbol.
The most well-known versions are made from the town of Dong’e, in Pingyin County, Shandong Province, as the pristine groundwater found in the area is said to be especially beneficial to producing the “e jiao.”
The medicine can sell for 600 euros (about $700) per kilogram, according to France 24.
China’s donkey population has dwindled due to the rising demand for “e jiao,” from 11 million in 1990 to 6 million in 2014, according to the International Organization for Animal Protection. So the country has begun looking elsewhere for donkeys.
Since 2016, Kenya has opened three slaughterhouses for donkeys, almost exclusively for export to China, according to France 24’s report. The broadcaster visited a slaughterhouse called Star Brilliant in Naivasha, Kenya, where the manager, John Kariuki, said that the facility slaughters about 200 donkeys a day, and 2,500 pieces of donkey hide are treated and packaged for export each month.
France 24 estimates that China would need to slaughter 10 million donkeys a year to meet the demand for “e jiao.” There are only 44 million donkeys in the world, according to the Animal Traction Network for Eastern and Southern Africa. The global donkey population could be decimated within several years.
Locals primarily use donkeys as a means of transport and do not eat donkey meat. Due to the donkey’s value—one donkey hide is valued at 65 euros ($76)—some have taken advantage of the Chinese demand to steal farmers’ donkeys and slaughter the animals to sell their hide. One farmer interviewed by France 24 said he had three donkeys stolen by thieves. He had to borrow a neighbor’s donkey to help with farm work.
France 24 reported that Kenya has plans to open a fourth donkey slaughterhouse. Countries like Mali, Senegal, and Tanzania have placed bans on exporting donkeys to China in recent years, but the Kenyan government is reluctant to upset the trade because it slaps an 80 percent export duty on the donkey hide, profiting from the trade, according to France 24.
Meanwhile, Kenya has partnered with the Chinese regime on several major infrastructure projects under China’s One Belt, One Road initiative. For example, in May 2017, a $3 billion Chinese-financed railway finished construction, connecting Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, to the port city of Mombasa.