02/02/2017 03:23 GMT | Updated 31/01/2018 05:12 GMT

How China's Growing Appetite For African Donkey Hides Is Threatening Survival In Developing Countries

Image credit: SPANA

Working animals. Sound familiar? Probably not. Did you know that there are nearly 200 million horses, donkeys, camels and elephants slaving through day and night, doing the job of trucks, tractors and taxis in some of the world's poorest communities?

Few in the developed world are aware that one billion people in the developing countries have an extraordinary reliance on millions of working animals with one working animal supporting the livelihood of an extended family of up to 30 people.

Across Africa and beyond, working animals are critical to transporting food, water and goods, and their role is vital in international development and sustainability yet widely unrecognised.

Without these animals, arduous jobs, such as carrying firewood and transporting water fall solely onto women.

Without working animals, the lives of women would be radically different.

Image credit: SPANA

With animal welfare still in crisis, news is doing the rounds of China's growing appetite for African donkey hides.

Donkey hides are in heavy demand in China due to their medicinal properties -gelatine produced from the hides is used as a medicine to treat common colds and insomnia.

Despite pharmaceutical medicine and herbal remedies, like Ayurveda, offering varied options to treat common ailments, why is the world community still permitting a nation to drive the slaughter of innumerable livestock?

"China is demanding African donkeys and demanding quite good price to buy the short-term, the local communities are making a little bit of money. The price of a donkey in some countries, like Mali has gone up by about 450%," said Geoffrey Dennis, the new Chief Executive of animal charity SPANA .

In a recent interview with the BBC World Service, Dennis talked about the implications of China's demand for African donkey hides.

The long-term effects of donkeys being decimated to satisfy the world's second largest economy could be catastrophic for vulnerable communities. When the money runs out, communities are left without a sustainable revenue generating asset. This is why some African governments, like Niger and Burkino Faso, have now banned the export of donkeys, says Dennis.

We need to get the world's poorest communities out of this death trap by convincing governments, aid organisations and major charities that the best way to protect communities is to look after their animals.

"International aid needs 'complete overhaul,'" said Dennis, calling on the international community to realize the urgency of drawing resources towards animal welfare in communities where livestock is crucial to survival.

During emergencies, such as natural disasters, extreme weather and conflict, the international community is focused exclusively on providing humanitarian aid and relief, with little attention given to preventing livestock deaths - animals that underpin the economic well-being and livelihoods of as many as one billion people worldwide.

These animals must be put at the heart of emergency responses and sustainable development.

Images and video supplied by SPANA