Reduced utility, theft, illegal slaughtering and decreasing grazing land are among the reasons for a 61% decline in the population of donkeys between 2012 and 2019, according to a new study.
The study by Brooke India (BI), a chapter of the United Kingdom-based international equine charity Brooke, was aimed to understand the existence of the donkey hide trade in India.
Field visits and interviews for the study were conducted in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Bihar, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, where a major decline in donkey population has been witnessed between 2012 and 2019, as per the livestock census.
Increasing literacy rate, mechanisation at brick kilns and adoption of mules instead of donkeys for transportation purpose are also among the reasons for their decline, the study noted.
It said Maharashtra witnessed a 39.69% decrease in its donkey population in the eight-year period while Andhra Pradesh registered 53.22% fall in donkey population.
Rajasthan saw a fall of 71.31% in these eight years, Gujarat registered 70.94% fall, Uttar Pradesh 71.72% and Bihar registered a decline of 47.31% in the population of donkeys between 2012 and 2019, it said.
The porous Nepal border and donkey fair, too, deny the perception that the country is free from the fangs of illegal donkey killings, it said.
The study found that the illegal export of live donkeys, their hides and meat is being carried out across borders via easily accessible routes.
“Traders and breeders of donkeys claim to know about the illegal transportation and purchase of donkeys. They are sure that the donkeys are not going to be utilised for general purposes such as transportation of goods and people,” the study noted.
It investigated if the skin of donkeys is smuggled to other countries, especially to China for Ejiao, which is used in treating different types of illnesses.
Quoting a local donkey trader, the study said that he was approached by a person from China a couple of years ago to buy 200 donkeys per month.
“The Chinese man, who had approached him through a local man from Maharashtra, told him that only the skins of donkeys were wanted,” the study said.