Charity uncovers vast illegal trading of donkey skins online

A report from The Donkey Sanctuary is the first to uncover the vast online illegal trading network of donkey skins. Thousands of skins are currently for sale on e-commerce websites, as well as popular social media platforms.

An estimated 4.8 million donkeys are trafficked and slaughtered for their skins every year to satisfy the demand for ejiao, a traditional Chinese remedy. The report also revealed the role of organised crime in facilitating the trafficking of donkeys.

Evidence of 382 individual traders was identified on business-to-business e-commerce websites offering donkey hides. It was found that 20% of these traders were also selling other wildlife products, including elephant ivory, rhino horns, pangolin scales and tiger hides.

In some extreme cases, the charity uncovered additional trafficking of narcotics, fake passports and human hair.

“This matters because it reveals how customers shopping for donkey skins can easily stumble across other products for sale alongside these skins, potentially contributing to the ever-worsening biodiversity crisis,” said Dr Ewan Macdonald, co-author of the study.

Adverts for donkey skins were also found on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Such sites have few policies in place to prevent traders from advertising.

“Our work brings together concerns about 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 Macdonald.

“This important research has, for the first time, shown a scientific link between the wider wildlife trade and donkey skin sales, and we’re delighted it is helping shine a light on this issue.”