Is donkey skin the new ivory?


A summary of the top news in Chinese politics and current affairs for October 3, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina newsletter, a convenient package of China’s business, political, and cultural news delivered to your inbox for free. Subscribe here.

As the global ivory market responds to China’s crackdown on domestic trade, concerns are being raised about other animal products. See a few recent stories:

Just ask for ivory chopsticks (象牙筷子 xiàngyá kuàizi), and they’ll give ’em to you in Vientiane:

  • Quartz reports that some of China’s trade in ivory, ahead of a total ban to take place at the end of 2017, has moved to Laos. But it’s not Laotians doing the trading: An investigation by Kenya-based nonprofit Save the Elephants found that Chinese traders had set up at least 30 ivory-selling shops in Vientiane and Luang Prabang.
  • In Laos, as in Vietnam, ivory prices have plummeted since China announced its ban on ivory. Yet as poaching continues, many traders are still stocking up and expecting demand to continue — just this time, in new markets.
  • Listen to a Sinica Podcast episode to learn more about the trade in ivory and rhino horn.

Can’t get ivory or rhino horn? Why not try some donkey skin gelatin (阿胶 ējiāo)?

  • There has been a slow drip of reporting throughout the last year on the rise of donkey skin as the “new ivory,” as China’s domestic donkey numbers have thinned out and the price of a donkey hide has more than doubled in some African countries.
  • Because of the intense demand for donkey-based medicinal products coming from China, National Geographic reports that “since 2016, six African governments have banned donkey skin exports, and six more have shuttered donkey slaughterhouses,” to prevent local donkey extinctions.
  • For more on the phenomenon of donkey skin trading, listen to a China Africa Podcast episode titled “Donkey skin is the new ivory.”