Millions of donkeys in many countries around the world are slaughtered every year to make a traditional Chinese medicine based on a gelatin called ejiao, which is believed to have health-enhancing and youth-preserving properties.

As reported by the BBC, in Africa – but also in other countries – the theft of donkeys has become a daily occurrence.

The Donkey Sanctuarywhich has campaigned against the animal trade since 2017, estimates that globally at least 5.9 million donkeys are slaughtered for this purpose each year, while the charity emphasizes that demand is constantly increasing.

“It is very difficult to get an accurate picture of exactly how many donkeys are killed to feed the Ejiao industry,” says a spokesman.

According to the BBC, exporting donkey skins is legal in some countries and illegal in others. But high demand and high prices for the hides are fueling donkey theft, and the Donkey Sanctuary says it has discovered animals being moved across international borders to reach locations where the trade is legal.

However, there will soon be a turning point as the government of every African state and the government of Brazil are set to ban the slaughter and export of donkeys in response to their dwindling donkey populations.

Solomon Onyango, who works for the Nairobi-based Donkey Sanctuary, says: “Between 2016 and 2019, we estimate that about half of Kenya’s donkeys were slaughtered for the leather trade.”

As the BBC points out, donkeys are the animals that transport people, goods, water and food – the backbone of poor, rural communities. Thus, the scale and rapid growth of the skin trade has alarmed activists and experts and prompted many people in Kenya to join protests against the skin trade.