Donkeys are protected from theft in a pen

The growth of the donkey skin trade in recent years has taken a significant toll on working donkey populations throughout Africa. But, thanks to our supporters, SPANA is working to save millions of animals’ lives.

Donkeys are loaded in to a truck in ZimbabweAcross Africa, tens of thousands of donkeys are being killed for their skins in order to produce ‘ejiao,’ a gelatinous substance that is widely used in Asian cosmetics and traditional medicine. With donkey populations dwindling in China, manufacturers are turning to countries like Tanzania, Mali and Kenya to meet the growing demand.

Animals stolen from their owners are being brutally slaughtered and skinned, often starved beforehand to make the process of removing their prized hides easier. In some African countries, more than a third of donkeys have been killed in under two years, devastating communities that depend on these animals for their very survival.

For women like Mama Ne’ema, a Maasai pastoralist in northern Tanzania, the theft of six of her seven donkeys has been a terrible blow.  Her treasured donkeys were a lifeline, helping her collect water, carry heavy loads, and transport villagers to hospital when they became sick. If her last donkey, Naibor, is stolen, injured or overworked, it could spell disaster not just for her family, but for her entire community.

A vet shows two Maasai women how to handle their donkeyThanks to supporters like you, SPANA is fighting this destructive trade on the ground. Working with trusted outreach partners like the Meru Animal Welfare Organisation (MAWO), SPANA is empowering local communities across Africa to serve as the first line of defence against disease, injury and donkey poaching.

Mama Ne’ema and many other women from her community are trained as ‘Donkey Champions’, learning how to protect and better care for their remaining animals.

Champions are trained in donkey care and management, and are shown how to build corral enclosures – essential for keeping their donkeys safe overnight. They are provided with first aid kits to treat common donkey wounds, and are taught how to make humane harnesses to prevent future injury.

Two Maasai villagers construct a donkey pen using wire and wooden stakes

Thanks to this training, Mama Ne’ema never overloads or overworks Naibor. Every night, she leads Naibor in to a pen where he can rest, safe from the threat of theft. Naibor and donkeys like him are now protected, well cared for and can look forward to happier, healthier lives.

There is still an enormous amount of work to be done to fight this trade. SPANA is working at every level to ensure that the theft and slaughter of these critically important animals is stopped. With your continued support, we are reaching more and more animals and their communities at the grassroots level.

Together, we can stop the donkey skin trade and keep these communities and animals safe.