Why is China buying up the global supply of donkeys?

Story highlights

  • China looks to Africa to supply donkeys for traditional medicine
  • Suppliers suffering environmental and economic problems
  • The largest economies and black market now involved

(CNN)Gelatin produced from donkey hide is a key ingredient of one of China's favorite traditional remedies, known as ejiao, which is used to treat a range of ailments from colds to insomnia.

But as the rising power shifts towards advanced industry and away from traditional agriculture, donkeys are in decline. State statistics show the population has fallen from 11 million to six million over the last 20 years.
China is now increasingly looking to Africa to boost its stocks, and imports donkeys from countries across the continent. But flourishing trade has hit several roadblocks.

    Donkeys decimated

    Niger recently became the latest African state to ban exports of donkeys, following a surge in sales to China.
    Government officials reported that 80,000 animals had been sold in the first 9 months of 2016, compared with 27,000 in 2015, and warned that the donkey population would be "decimated" on current trends.
    In August, Burkina Faso took the same step, after 45,000 donkeys were slaughtered in six months from a total population of 1.4 million.
    In both cases, the value of donkeys soared and the fledgling industry delivered a