Illegal donkey skin trade thrives on social media, report reveals | Global Development


The illegal sale of donkey skins is booming in online markets, with traders blatantly flouting local laws and multinational social media companies such as Facebook doing little to prevent the illegal trade, according to a new investigation.

Marketers on Facebook are offering large quantities of donkey skins on the site, according to the report, including one in Kenya, where the sale is effectively banned, which listed 2,000 for immediate sale. The report found a large number of sellers in countries that ban the donkey skin trade, including Kenya, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Ghana.

In its report, the charity Donkey Sanctuary said traders were promoting the sale of donkey skins on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. He said the algorithms used by social media companies make it easy for buyers to find sellers.

An estimated 4.8 million donkeys are killed each year for the trade, according to the report, a claim partly supported by raids on farmers who depend on the animals for their livelihood.

Traffic is fueling a growing demand for ejiao, a traditional Chinese remedy that uses donkey skins to produce a form of gelatin. Although only 20 countries have agreements to legally trade donkey skins with China, skins arrive there from more than 50 countries, according to the charity.

The report released on Sundayis the first to reveal the scale of the trade, which is linked to organized crime syndicates, international drug trafficking and the illegal trade in endangered animals and animal parts.

Ejiao, a traditional Chinese remedy produced from donkey skins. Photography: The Donkey Sanctuary

The charity’s investigators found 382 traders who were selling the skins of donkeys and other trafficked wild animals on e-commerce sites, some of whom were also selling drugs, human hair and fake passports .

The report said some traders were also operating on the dark web and many were using established drug trafficking rings to transport the skins. In cases where the export of donkey skins was legal, the report found that the goods were bundled with other illegal wildlife items or illegal drugs.

He also said the websites were failing to crack down on the illegal trade, although it was clear from the listings that the sellers were aware of the laws, with many promising to package the skins carefully to avoid detection. Marianne Steele, acting CEO of the charity, said: ‘By cracking down on the sale of donkey skins on their platforms, e-commerce and social media [firms] will not only prevent considerable cruelty, but will also help to eliminate other criminal activities that take place alongside it.

In a complementary study on the link between the donkey trade and global wildlife trafficking, Saïd Business School and the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit found 15,000 articles to sell on seven websites, as well as offers featuring 13 endangered species.

Donkey skins are dried in the sun at an abattoir in Kenya.
Donkey skins are dried in the sun at an abattoir in Kenya. Photograph: Courtesy of The Donkey Sanctuary

“Our work brings together concerns for wildlife conservation, animal welfare and the well-being of some of the world’s poorest communities, all around the unexpected focal point of donkeys,” said Dr Ewan Macdonald , postdoctoral researcher at Saïd Business School.

Macdonald said 20% of traders also sell other wildlife products, including pangolin scales and elephant ivory.

Last month, campaign group Avaaz said it documented a thriving market for wildlife trafficking on Facebook, finding baby tigers, leopards, ocelots, African gray parrots and the pygmy marmoset, the most world’s little monkey.

In response to Avaaz’s report, Facebook’s parent company Meta questioned the validity of the study’s methodology and sample size, and said the results did not reflect the work that was done. they had done to combat wildlife trafficking, including removing content and launching strategies to discourage people. to participate in trade. “This is a contradictory space, however, and the people behind this horrific activity are persistent and constantly evolving their tactics in an attempt to evade these efforts,” a spokesperson said.

Meta has not responded to claims in the Donkey Sanctuary report about its platform being used to sell donkey skins in countries where it is illegal.


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