Newly published research raises important concerns about whether the trade in donkey skins is being used as a cover for smuggling illegal wildlife products.
The research, published today in Conservation Science and Practice, reveals novel links between the global trade in donkey skins and the wildlife trade. The study, carried out by an interdisciplinary team from Oxford University’s Saïd Business School and Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), suggests that these two trades operate in parallel, creating new avenues and transportation pathways for wildlife trade.
Globally, wildlife is the basis of a multi-billion-dollar trade, much of which is legal, but an illegal component funds one of the most lucrative sectors of international crime. It is estimated that at least 20% of vertebrate species are affected by wildlife trade and overexploitation is a key driver of biodiversity loss, including for species such as rhino, pangolins and parrots.
Over the past few years, concern has increased over the possible link between the donkey skin and wildlife trades, with wildlife traffickers potentially using the legally complex donkey skin trade as a cover for smuggling illegal wildlife products.
To investigate this concern, a team of researchers from Saïd Business School and WildCRU identified 7 large-scale Business to Business ecommerce websites, all of which offered donkey hides for sale on their platform. They then identified 382 vendors from 55 countries who sold donkey skins on these platforms and downloaded the full product lists offered by each vendor in an attempt to identify which clusters of products are frequently traded together.