A lucrative market for donkey skins in China has created a burgeoning black market for donkey smuggling in South Africa.
The skins, which can legally be exported to China, are used in traditional Chinese medicine as a “stimulant”.
The trade is lucrative, and it is understood that donkeys are bought from tribal chiefs in South Africa for between R200 and R300 by a middleman, who earns about R7 000 from the Chinese buyer.
In China, they are then sold for even more.
For the skins to be legally exported, they have to conform to certain health requirements, including not coming from foot-and-mouth disease-infested regions, such as Limpopo, Mpumalanga or KwaZulu-Natal.
The skins also have to be harvested at approved abattoirs and have to be certified.
It is on the latter count that the law is apparently being contravened. According to the police, smugglers are now obtaining export permits for zebra and other wildlife skins.
The donkey skins are then rolled up with the wildlife skin on the outside.
Last week, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals seized a truck full of live donkeys that were destined for Gauteng.
There were 41 donkeys in total – some of which were already dead. Four men were charged with cruelty to animals.