Daniella Potter
3 minute read
14 Oct 2016
12:21 pm

Donkey populations diminish as hide trade soars

Daniella Potter

The Highveld Horse Care Unit says the trend is growing in popularity, as donkey hides trade for an attractive sum.

The trade of donkey hides is diminishing the donkey population. Picture: Highveld Horse Care Unit.

The illegal slaughter of donkeys for the trade in their hides is rapidly diminishing the donkey population in South Africa.

This is according to the managing director of the Highveld Horse Care Unit (HHCU), Bev Seabourne, who called it a “cruel and barbaric craze”.

Seabourne said: “The demand for donkey hides in China per annum is extremely high.”

The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) issued a media statement last week saying the demand for donkey hide, which contains a gelatine, was supposedly for medical purposes, such as treating anti-aging, insomnia and blood circulation.

“The gelatine is a key ingredient in China’s ejiao industry, which produces tablets, tonics and a sweet syrup. The skins are soaked and stewed to produce or release this substance,” read the NSPCA’s statement.

Seabourne said HHCU had been investigating such illegal slaughters and trade in donkey hides for about a year, and they had been prosecuting individuals that have been caught in the act since May 2015.

“The Unit has over this time confiscated close to 100 donkeys from three individuals to prevent them from being brutally and inhumanely slaughtered for their hides,” said Seabourne.

“This trend is growing in popularity as the skins trade for a very attractive sum.”

She said the demand for donkeys was definitely on the increase and HHCU had found donkeys were being bought from livestock auctions, rural communities or even stolen.

“Donkeys are being transported from as far as the Northern Cape, the Free State, Limpopo and the North West province to Gauteng to be slaughtered here. We are also aware that donkeys are being trucked in large numbers from the bordering countries,” said Seabourne.

The NSPCA’s statement further read that the animal welfare organisation was “horrified” by the manner in which donkeys were transported on a vehicle travelling from Limpopo, apparently on its way to an abattoir in Randfontein.

“There were 41 donkeys loaded on to the truck which had slippery metal flooring and makeshift wooden pole side rails. Adult males, females and foals were all in the same compartment, with most of the animals in a state of collapse; crushed, dead or dying. This vehicle was intercepted by personnel from the Polokwane SPCA,” said the NSPCA.

“Humane emergency euthanasia was undertaken to end the suffering of these poor animals, and the four men responsible, all foreign nationals, were arrested and imprisoned.”

The NSPCA laid several charges of animal cruelty against the accused and said it would “vigorously” oppose bail. The case has been postponed until October 21.

The HHCU was assisted by the Bloemfontein SPCA in investigating an issue involving 70 sick and emaciated donkeys on a plot outside the city and found the owner was interested in exporting the donkeys’ skins to China. The HHCU is in the process of prosecuting the owners and, the NSPCA’s newsletter issued at the end of September stated, “The donkeys were humanely euthanised and criminal charges in terms of the Animals Protection Act have been laid.”

The NSPCA further stated, “Over and above the horrendous cruelty to the donkeys, it is noted that individuals and communities are suffering, as their livelihoods and often their only means of transportation are being taken from them or purchased for money.”

HHCU runs a donkey project in townships, and Seabourne said the educational programme had assisted many owners in regarding their donkeys as sentient beings that are beneficial to their everyday living.

Caxton News Service