The federal government through the Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service, (NAQS), on Wednesday, in Abuja, said it will regulate the sale of donkey skin in order to curb the over-exploitation of the trade.
A statement by the agency’s spokesperson, Chigozie Nwodo, said it was obligated to institute all reasonable safeguards “to protect the surviving breeds of donkeys within the country from the possible threat of biodiversity loss and extinction.”
”The spate of mounting demands for donkey skins has fostered a ravenous underground market for the product, resulting in a relentless open season on the donkey population,” the director-general, of the outfit, Vincent Isegbe, was quoted as saying.
He said there was the need to safeguard donkeys from extinction as Nigeria is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). He said the agency will protect the animal from the possible threat of biodiversity loss and extinction.
The global population of donkeys have suffered a collapse over the past decade, experts say. The impact of climate change is projected to aggravate their depletion. This has inspired conservationist efforts to promote their welfare.
“In line with this trend, NAQS recently assessed the risk environment of the Nigerian donkeys and found it concerning,” the statement said.
“NAQS tabled its findings and recommendations on the developmental needs of donkey in 2017 before the National Council of Agriculture, the highest policy-making body on agriculture in the federation.”
The statement explained that it was on the basis of this report that the government designated donkey skin export on the prohibition list.
Meanwhile, the head, Animal Quarantine Department, NAQS, Abidodun Akinjo, was quoted saying, ”Despite the prohibition, we noticed that there were considerable donkey skin transactions afoot. In the past three months, we have worked hard to disorient the network behind this illicit activity.
“We found out that foreign naturals were inducing and instigating this wanton depopulation of Nigerian donkeys. Donkey skins is a highly prized raw material in Asia. Knowing that Nigeria has good donkey numbers, they have spent time and resources to cultivate a loyal supply network which makes the overkill and delivers the donkey skin.”
According to the statement, “the quarantine service will engage all stakeholders as much as possible to achieve these fundamentals in order to make the export trade in donkey skin advantageous for everybody, including generations unborn.”
A bill to prohibit trade in donkeys for their skin was proposed in the federal legislature. The bill was sponsored by Garba Muhammad, a member of the House of Representatives, (APC, Kaduna), in 2018.
This bill came amidst concern about depleting donkey populations across Africa in the wake of demand for their skin to make “ejiao”, a herbal supplement an increasing proportion of Chinese are consuming for skin health and sexual prowess.
It is not clear the status of the bill currently as it passed second reading and was referred to the committee on agricultural institutions and services then.
Similarly, the Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA) decried the indiscriminate slaughtering of donkeys, emphasising that the animal may go into extinction
The association accused poachers from China of invading the country in search of donkey skin.
The group said the Nigerian donkey skin is of superior quality and therefore in high demand by the Chinese pharmaceutical industry.
NVMA alleged that prior to the influx of Chinese poachers, donkeys were slaughtered in few states of the federation. “But their interest had raised the stakes making it a booming trade in 31 states,” it said.