Progress has been made towards reducing the trade of donkey skins, with Africa moving a step closer to suspending their sale. The industry involves “untold cruelty” towards the equines, and has caused an alarming decline in donkey populations.

A report calling for a moratorium on the trade has received the endorsement of the African Union. The recommendations will now be put forward to the Assembly of Heads of States and Governments for adoption in February 2024.

“This is so important for communities in Africa and their donkeys which suffer untold cruelty driven by this insatiable demand for their skins,” said Dr Raphael Kinoti, Regional Director of Brooke East Africa. “We are delighted that the committee recognised the socio-economic contribution of the donkey to livelihoods in Africa and hope every African country will respect this decision and stop this trade to preserve this critical natural heritage and the livelihoods that it supports.”

The report, Donkeys in Africa Now and In The Future, was produced by the African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) with support from the International Coalition for Working Equids (ICWE), made up of Brooke, The Donkey Sanctuary, SPANA (the Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad) and World Horse Welfare. It highlights the alarming decline of the donkey population within Africa due to the trade of their skins.

Over the last decade, hundreds of thousands of donkeys have been slaughtered for their skins and exported. Driven by demand from China for the traditional Chinese medicine, the trade has had a detrimental impact on both the overall donkey population in Africa and the livelihoods of those who depend on them.

“The adoption of this report at the special technical committee session of the African Union last week is a critical and significant milestone on the way to protecting Africa’s donkey populations and the communities that rely on them,” added Dr Otieno Mtula, Regional Campaigns and Advocacy Manager (Africa) for The Donkey Sanctuary. “That it will be considered by the Executive Council of the African Union in February next year is testament not just to the urgency of the issue, but also the collaborative efforts of all those who have worked tirelessly to bring it to the fore.

“The decision taken at the special technical committee session last week gives us confidence that the Executive Council of the African Union will recognize the economic, humanitarian and welfare threat posed by the donkey skin trade, as well as the contribution donkeys make to sustainable economic growth, by committing to a pan-African strategy and a moratorium on the slaughter of donkeys for their skins.”

Roly Owers, World Horse Welfare Chief Executive, welcomed the African Union’s proposal to further include donkeys in national animal resource development policies and plans.

“Any trade in donkeys needs to be sustainable and enforceable, and too often clamping down in one country or region leads to the problem moving across borders,” he said. “So it is positive that African leaders agree they need a common position on donkeys and a moratorium on their slaughter for skins so they can determine whether the trade is sustainable and in the continent’s interests.”

Lead image by The Donkey Sanctuary

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