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Donkeys win the day in Parliament as international charity joins growing support for Skin trade halt

By Catherine Rice
Photo Credit: The Donkey Sanctuary
Photo Credit: The Donkey Sanctuary

(Abuja-Nigeria) The world’s largest equine charity, The Donkey Sanctuary, made an impassioned plea this week for parliamentarians to safeguard Nigeria’s national donkey herd, warning that “predatory interests” had it in their sights for the lucrative donkey skin trade.

At a public hearing in the House of Representatives, hosted by the committee on Agricultural Production and Services, The Donkey Sanctuary spoke in support of a bill by Hon. Garba Mohammed which would: “Prohibit the killing and exportation of Donkeys or its carcass or derivatives out of Nigeria given their depletion in numbers.” For a number of years, Nigeria’s donkey population has been targeted for its skins, which are used to make a traditional remedy in China known as ejiao.

Simon Pope, campaigns manager at The Donkey Sanctuary who is in Nigeria and presented to the Committee says: “Nigeria’s donkey population is being cut down and harvested like maize on an industrial scale for their skins. It is unregulated, unsustainable and despite the export of skins being prohibited by law, it continues unchallenged.

“Even traders are now claiming that donkeys are becoming “scarce” in some parts of Nigeria. With millions of people in Nigeria dependant on working donkeys for their independence and livelihoods, a stand has to be taken now in order to safeguard this valuable livelihood assets for both current and future generations.“

There was overwhelming support from the Bill amongst members of the Committee but also from key Government Departments and officials, including the Director of Veterinary Services who attended and spoke at the hearing. During a meeting with the Speaker of the House subsequent to the committee hearing, The Donkey Sanctuary was informed that the Bill would become law as soon possible.

Simon Pope (4th from right), Hon. Garba Mohammed (3rd from right in brown) and Linda Edwardes (6th from right) meet parliamentarians in Abuja.

A news report (New Telegraph online ( ) from January 2018 quoted a butcher at the Nkwo Jakki market in Ezzamgbo in Ohaukwu Local Government Area. Paschal Ogwa, disclosed that over 200 youths are in the slaughter business and make a great deal of money each day as “…about 2,500 to 4,000 donkeys are killed each day.” If correct, and 2,500 donkeys are slaughtered five days a week at Nkwo Jakki, this equates to 650,000 donkeys a year, in which case Nigeria’s 1.5 million donkeys will be gone in less than three years.

Nigerian media this week reported claims by advocates of donkey ranching or farming that their businesses will re-supply the diminishing population. But The Donkey Sanctuary warned against some of the inflated claims being made about the revenue that could be generated from donkey farming, urging the industry to be realistic and honest about the expected returns.

Simon Pope says: “At present, there are no donkey farms outside China, so this is an untested and uncertain business venture. It is a high-input (cost, time), low-output (low and lengthy production numbers) farming system – donkeys have only one foal every year and are only fertile when reaching two years old. Feed has to be bought, there are vet bills and export taxes.

“The claims made by the donkey farming advocates that $2 billion can be generated annually from donkey production in Nigeria do not stand up to scrutiny. With an average donkey hide fetching $100, a breeding herd of 13.5 million would be needed from day one to generate $2 billion worth of annual revenue from donkey skins. These claims are both misleading and unrealistic. They also fail to recognise the far greater value that accrues to donkey-dependent communities and the rural economy from a vibrant, flourishing working donkey population.”

Millions of individuals, hundreds of thousands of communities in Nigeria are sustained by the livelihoods provided to them by a donkey over its 20+ years of service. They provide something far more valuable to millions of people both as a loyal, sentient being as well as on a socio-economic level.”

“The unrelenting demand for donkey skins in Nigeria has already impacted on the livelihoods of people who depend on donkeys for an income. The minority voices of opposition to the Bill, have been drowned out by those determined to protect this valued and precious resource for the Nigerian people. Nigeria has shown itself to be a leader in respect of curbing the skin trade and we hope other countries follow that lead.”