Half the world’s donkey population could be wiped out in the next five years, as millions are slaughtered for their hides to meet rising demand for a traditional Chinese medicine.
The organisation has warned the species is now “in a state of global crisis”, as traders target their skins to export as an ingredient for eijao.
It is estimated that, to meet demand for Chinese gelatin-based traditional medicine called ejiao, need about 4.8 million donkey hides per year.
At the current pace, the global donkey population of 44million would be halved over the next five years, the report warns.
Populations are reportedly collapsing in countries across Africa, South America and Asia, with animals including sick mares and foals being stolen, illegally transported and killed, according to a report from the international charity The Donkey Sanctuary.
Donkey populations in China have collapsed 76% since 1992, so the industry has turned to foreign suppliers, particularly in Africa, Asia and South America, says the organization.
Brazil has seen a 28% reduction in donkey populations since 2007, compared to 37% in Botswana and 53% in Kyrgyzstan.
The report reveals how donkeys – many stolen from communities who rely on the animals for their livelihoods – are transported on long journeys without access to food or water, with up to 20% dying on route.
The Donkey Sanctuary said investment in donkey farming was needed to replenish numbers, but it could take 20 years to reach the levels required for the ejiao industry.