Ethiopia’s donkey population risks being wiped-out due to smuggling and illegal slaughtering, warned a new study undertaken by Brooke Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has the largest donkey population in the world. According to the Central Statistical Agency, there are 9.9 million donkeys in the country, with 872,465 new births registered last year.
“The ever-rising growth in demand for donkey skin, precipitated by its importance to make Chinese traditional medicine–Ejiao– is decimating the pack animal in Ethiopia,” said Yohannes Kassim, Head of Programs at Brooke Ethiopia.
According to Brooke Ethiopia, the Ejiao producing industry in China is seriously endangering the lives and livelihoods of millions of poor Ethiopians. If the government of Ethiopia cannot intervene and tackle the problem right now, stated Brooke’s study, Ethiopia’s donkey population will definitely be decimated in less than five years’ time.
Donkeys have social and economic importance to many smallholding farmers in Ethiopia. Until the end of the last fiscal year, about 6.45 million were used for transportation, whereas about 0.98 million and 0.32 million were used for draught and other purposes, respectively, according to the CSA.
“Thousands of donkeys are being smuggled to neighboring countries every day. Such illegal practice is putting Ethiopia’s donkey population at risk of extinction and is threatening the livelihoods of millions of rural communities who heavily depend on them,” Yohannes told The Reporter.
Two years ago, the Donkey Sanctuary warned countries that the increasing demand for ejiao will lead to the slaughter of half of the world’s donkey population.
According to the same source, the donkey population in China has collapsed by 76 percent since 1992. Since 2007, the donkey population has declined by 28 percent in Brazil, by 37 percent in Botswana and by 53 percent in Kyrgyzstan.
Last year, Kenya, which has lost 15 percent of its donkey population between 2016 and 2018, decided to close a slaughterhouse after being warned that such activities would wipe out all the animals in the country by 2023. Although this was expected to reduce smuggling of the animal from Ethiopia, the animals are still being slaughtered in Kenya, according to Brooke.
“Thousands of donkeys smuggled out of Ethiopia are being slaughtered on a daily basis by slaughterhouses owned by Far East companies. Most of the donkeys are being smuggled from Oromia, Amhara, SNNP and Afar regions,” said Yonas Tafesse, Advocacy manager at Brooke Ethiopia.
Trading of donkeys has always been conducted in livestock market spots (in disguise). North Shewa (Metehara), Weber livestock market (in Afar), Dire Dawa, Jinka (Dasenech), Nyangatom and Surma (via dangerous routes) are among the major routes where most illegal donkey traders operate in disguise, Yonas said.
Currently, donkeys are being sold for 5000-6000 birr per head, twice the price witnessed a year ago due to the growing demand for the animal around border areas.
Almost five million skins are needed every year for Ejiao production in China, according to Donkey Sanctuary. This means the industry needs more than half of the world’s donkey over the next five years.