DONKEYS are the backbone of many farming villages in developing countries. But if current trends continue, the world’s rural poor may soon need to find a new beast of burden.
The animals’ ranks have thinned dramatically in many African countries: Kenya’s donkey population, for example, has fallen by half since 2009, to 900,000. The primary cause is neither disease nor declining demand for live donkeys, but instead a burgeoning market for their pelts.
Since ancient times the Chinese have consumed , a gelatine made by boiling and refining donkey skin to produce a tonic taken as an elixir.
As the country grew richer in the 1990s and 2000s, demand for the product grew and fewer donkeys were needed for agriculture and transport. As a result, there were only 5m donkeys in China in 2016, down from 11m in 1990. Because donkeys are relatively poor breeders, China no longer has enough…
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