Pakistan seizes illegal donkey hides bound for China

A Pakistan security official stands beside confiscated sacks of donkey skins, in Karachi, Pakistan, on April 27, 2017. Shahzaib Akber / EPA
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KARACHI // Pakistani police have confiscated more than 4,000 donkey hides that were set to be illegally exported to China, where they are highly sought after for their use in traditional medicine.

Six people in a smuggling ring, including a Chinese national, have been arrested in connection with the case.

“We received a tip-off that the contraband, which was brought from Lahore, was hidden in a shop,” said Israr Afridi, a police officer in the port city of Karachi where the incident took place.

Customs official Ali Raza added: “It seems to be a bigger racket and we are investigating more leads.”

Donkey-hide gelatin has no commercial value locally, but is highly sought after in China as an ingredient for traditional medicine to treat health problems such as anaemia and menopause-linked ailments.

Hoofs also contain gelatin while the meat, consumed in parts of China, is believed to be more nutritious than beef.

The gelatin, known in China as ejiao, is dissolved into hot drinks, or mixed with nuts and seeds as a snack.

China is making efforts to source donkey hides from abroad as its own native population declines.

Donkey numbers in China have nearly halved from 11 million in the 1990s to six million in 2013, according to the country’s national animal husbandry yearbook.

Earlier this month, Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa signed an agreement with the Chinese government for the legal export of the animal called the “Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa sustainable donkey development programme”.

“We plan to export 200,000 donkeys to China during the first phase,” provincial information minister Mushtaq Ghani said.

* Agence France-Presse