The North West Government says it plans to import male donkeys and also donkey semen from China in order to ensure that South Africa will be able to meet China’s demand for the donkey hides.
According to Patrick Leteane, Director General of the province’s Agriculture Department, it will be “slightly cheaper” to import the donkey semen to breed the donkeys in South Africa and then export them to China, than it will be to import the actual animals for breeding purposes.
Leteane says”On the issues of breeding, the Chinese have two dominant breeds that they are using, which is the American Mammoth and the Corsican. Locally, our breed is Abyssinian, which is a smaller breed. We will be starting with that breed but gradually, we will be improving our breeds through the use of (donkey) semen (in) artificial insemination. Also, there’s a possibility of employing male donkeys to improve our breed locally.”
Leteane further adds that the government’s plans will take efforts to ensure that the specific breed of donkey under trade will neither be decimated nor become extinct. Until then, the province will gather more information about the booming industry and also engage with local farmers to ensure they are educated on a variety of issues, including legislation pertaining to animals and the slaughtering thereof, as well as farmer training on how to breed donkeys.
But not everyone is on board.
According to News 24, World Horse Welfare coordinator, Penny Ward, says it will not be that easy and urges the government to be careful with this project and to consult animal practitioners on the matter. She says: “Because it’s not just… ‘okay, we can get farmers to breed donkeys’. It doesn’t work like that. And I am worried that it is going to turn into some kind of process whereby the welfare of the animal is not respected.”