Donkeys in Tanzania

Helping people recognise the value of their animals

The demand for donkeys to produce Ejiao (a gelatin obtained from donkey skin used in Traditional Chinese Medicine) is constantly growing and as a result, donkey slaughterhouses were established in Tanzania to enable the trade with China – one in the northwestern part of the country and one in central-Tanzania. After protecting donkeys through emergency aid measures several times, we are now working in cooperation with our partners, the Tanzania Animals Protection Organization (TAPO), on a large-scaled project in the region of Shinyanga – where one of the slaughterhouses is located.


The importance of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and thus the demand for animal-originated products, is increasing rapidly worldwide. Especially the trade with boiled donkey skin is booming and has resulted in a decrease of donkey populations. East-African countries with their large donkey populations have become the main suppliers and are serving the market with their donkey slaughterhouses.

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In Tanzania, donkey meat and products are rarely consumed or used by the local communities, meaning that the slaughterhouses have no benefit for the people. In reality, the trade has resulted in existential threats for villagers as the ever increasing demand leads to more thefts of donkeys from the villages. Donkeys generally roam around freely overnight and are thus easy prey. The thieves either kill and skin the animals’ on-site and only sell the sought-after skin later or they grab the animals and transport them to the nearby markets and slaughterhouses. Since 2017, many of the mainly in poor communities living people in Tanzania had to learn the hard way: Without the donkey, you have nothing.

Tanzania’s government only stepped in for a short period of time

In June 2017, the government retracted the slaughterhouses’ licenses to kill donkeys and banned the export of donkey products to China, but this didn’t change anything. Donkeys thefts continued and animals were simply transported across the border to the neighbouring country of Kenya, where the animals were sold to one of the four slaughterhouses there.  As a result of the lack of change, Tanzania’s slaughterhouse were allowed to re-open in January 2018 and have since  been slaughtering about 40 donkeys a day. The slaughterhouse in Dodoma is currently shut down/closed due to administrative issues. Thus, all donkeys are being transported and slaughtered at the slaughterhouse in the Shinyanga region.

We have been active in Tanzania since the first donkey thefts were recorded

Apart from our work at the local animal markets and slaughterhouses, where we provide information/education to ensure animal welfare laws are being followed, we also provided emergency funding numerous times over the last few years. Especially in regions with high donkey populations and where donkey theft was a regular occurrence, we were able to support awareness raising through informational/educational work as well as build donkey enclosures with the local communities to lock up the animals during the night and protect them against thieves. Since then, no more thefts have been reported in the regions we have supported.

However, increasingly the negative impact of the slaughterhouse in Shinyanga is showing in the region: Here, more and more alerts of donkeys thefts have reached us. Moreover, many people in remote rural areas in northern Tanzania are not aware of the situation. This is also, where the poorest communities with particularly many donkeys live.

With a large-scale project we want to offer protection before it’s too late

Since the beginning of this year, together with our partners at the Tanzania Animals Protection Organization (TAPO), we have been working in 40 villages to raise awareness and educate local authorities and donkey owners. Besides meetings, public outreach and information provision, we are also buidling enclosures in all villages to protect the up to 5.000 donkeys.

The provision of mobile veterinary clinics ensures that the donkeys receive necessary basic treatments and, at the same time, donkey owners are educated on how to take proper care of their animals in a species-appropriate and respectful manner.

Members of MAWO and villagers building fenced-in areas for protection of donkeys
© Tanzania Animals Protection Organization (TAPO)

Following our approach of “Increase Donkey Value”, we want to ensure the welfare of donkeys as well as enable people in rural communities to improve the protection for their animals. This way, they can stand up and fight against the donkey skin trade on their own.

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We aim at improving the situation for animals in long term i. e. by providing veterinary care, by supporting animal sanctuaries and through our educational work. Every single donation helps!

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For more information, please contact:

Viola von Keller
Project Manager Farm Animals

Tel.: +49(0)30 – 9237226-0

Welttierschutzgesellschaft e.V.
Reinhardtstr. 10
10117 Berlin