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NAIROBI, Kenya – From Kenya to Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe to Nigeria, agents are seeking to feed China's insatiable appetite for a gelatin made from stewed donkey skins that purports to provide health benefits.
The beasts of burden many Africans rely on for farm work and transporting heavy loads are being stolen for slaughter, the overwhelming demand driving a violent crime wave.
In the east Kenyan town where most of the world's ejiao (pronounced "uh-jee-ow") is made, billboard after billboard proclaims the purported curative powers of the gelatin. A slogan reads, "Ejiao, eat for a long life, lose weight, and get more energy."
Kenya's donkey population has fallen in the past nine years by a third — from 1.8 million to 1.2 million. And the current slaughter rate threatens the animal's population.