Government has moved to crack down on a money-spinning donkey skin business following a spate of donkey killings in most parts of the country, especially central and northern Botswana.
The Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security released a communication last week announcing the indefinite suspension of export licences for donkeys and their products. The Ministry cited concern on the “indiscriminate and cruel slaughter of donkeys”.
Government further stated the fact that donkeys are exported to lucrative markets in Asia as part of the reasons for the decision.
“In this regard, issuance of all exports licences relating to donkeys and their products for export purpose is suspended indefinitely with immediate effect,” the statement says.
Farmers have been urged to stay vigilant and keep a close eye on the donkeys as well as report any suspicious illegal trade on live donkeys, donkey meat and donkey hides to government.
“Furthermore, farmers are advised to brand and ear mark their donkeys for ease of identification,” the ministry said.
Government issued permits for donkey meat exports last year, thereby opening a huge opportunity for Chinese investors, as the appetite for donkey hides back home is insurmountable.
A record high 128 donkeys were slaughtered in a week this February in Boteti West, where the process of selling required farmers to register their animals with the local customary chief, and produce an affidavit confirming the donkey ownership to curb thefts, said sources.
The Chinese company behind the killings, Y2K Holdings paid P550 per donkey while the traders earned P150 per donkey head.
Botswana is the sixth African country to impose restrictions on donkey and its products following Niger, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso and Gambia. Zimbabwe turned down an application to build a donkey slaughterhouse, while Ethiopia closed its only functioning donkey abattoir after residents complained about the stench and pollution.
The ban has mushroomed illegal donkey trade and subsequently soared donkey prices.
“Before the ban, I imported a truck packed with donkeys from Niger almost every week and sold them at $44 per donkey,” said the trader, whose full names were withheld because of fear of being caught. “Now, the price has risen to $150 or higher,” a Nigerian smuggler told Bloomberg recently.
China is the major importer of donkey skin from several countries – including Afghanistan – have been confirmed.
According to information published by the Donkey Sanctuary end of January 2017, thousands of donkeys in developing countries are being killed and their skins sold to China for use in traditional medicine.
Demand for donkey hide, which is boiled to produce gelatine – the key ingredient in a medicine called ejiao – has raised the price and the rate of slaughter of the animals, threatening the livelihoods of poor communities who rely on them.