Campaigners from The Donkey Sanctuary and the RSPCA Australia have been in Darwin in the Northern Territory this week, talking to government officials about the donkey skin trade and an emerging threat to wild donkeys in the country.
Australian donkeys are at risk from the growing global trade that is wiping out populations of working and wild animals, devastating impoverished communities, and causing widespread animal suffering.
Alex Mayers, head of programmes at The Donkey Sanctuary, joined RSPCA Australia's senior policy officer, Dr Jed Goodfellow, in Darwin to share evidence with the Northern Territories Government of the dangers of the donkey skin trade, as outlined in the charity's Under The Skin report.
Alex said: 'Donkeys are sensitive and curious animals that have lived and worked alongside humans for centuries. Consider their importance and symbolism in Christianity, for example, as well as their role in Australian military history, especially Simpson and his donkey.
'However, these gentle animals are now facing an increasing risk from a growing trade in skin and meat, driven largely by demand from China for traditional medicine.
'This demand has led to a burgeoning illegal trade in donkeys throughout Asia, Africa and South America, with much-needed working animals regularly stolen, and wild populations decimated throughout the region by poaching.'
Working alongside The Donkey Sanctuary, the RSPCA in Australia believes the donkey skin trade - in both its legal and illegal forms – represents unacceptable animal risks, and hopes to work with the NT Government to rule it out.
Dr Goodfellow said: 'While many countries around the world are wisely banning the export of donkey skins, as a result of the risks, there has been some suggestion this trade could be leveraged in the Northern Territory, and that’s not a good idea.
'In order to meet the demands of the trade, donkeys sourced from Australia would need to be rounded up and trucked from the wild or farmed in vast numbers, and neither idea has much merit.
'Wild donkey populations tend to live in extremely remote and inaccessible areas, which makes them notoriously difficult to reach, and Donkey farming - which may sound like a viable solution - is also fraught with problems.'
In June, RSPCA Australia launched a Senate petition calling for a permanent ban on the live export of ponies, horses and donkeys. Already the petition has been signed by more than 21,000 Australians, while the Senate has since passed a motion in support of a ban.
Find out more about The Donkey Sanctuary's Under The Skin report and what is being done to tackle the situation.