It seems that China can’t get its hands on enough donkeys! So much so that some African countries have actually put a ban on exports of donkeys! According to a report in The Independent, Niger, an African country stopped the export of donkeys following a three-fold increase in trade of these animals to mostly Asian countries. Burkina Faso, another African nation has put a hold on donkey exports stating that its reserve of 1.4 million donkeys is being “over-exploited”, mainly due to the trade of these animals with China. But, the question is, why is China so eager to import donkeys?!!!! Well, for one, reports suggest that from 1990s, the number of donkeys in China has fallen from around 11 million to 6 million.
But that still doesn’t answer the interesting question, what does China do with so many donkeys? Actually, donkey skins are boiled to produce gelatin, that forms a very important part of a Chinese medicine called ‘ejiao’. This traditional medicine is said to be a cure for a lot of things such as insomnia, irregular menstruation and dizziness. It is also believed to help in improving blood circulation.
The Independent reported a Chinese medicine expert as saying that the ‘ejiao’ is popular in the country and people even self-prescribe it. According to this Chinese medicine expert Mazin Al-Khafaji, there is a shortage of the medicine and it is expensive because the market is often flooded with fakes. “It’s what we call a blood tonic, so it stops bleeding and strengthens the blood. It’s used for anemia or low blood cell count,” he reportedly said. The medicine is basically a ‘hard gel’ made out of the donkey hide. It is usually dissolved in alcohol or hot water. It can also be used in a cream to cure leg ulcers, he added.
With the average price of donkeys increasing, many livestock sellers are taking to breeding the animals to make a handsome sum of money. According to the New York Times, a Chinese ejiao expert Qin Yunfeng has said that the government in China should support donkey breeders so as to cater to the demand and reduce dependence on imports. The encouragement should come in the form of subsidies, he has said.