Donkeys stolen, skinned in Africa to feed Chinese demand

In this May 14, 2018, photo, donkeys raised by subcontractors of the world's largest donkey skin gel producer await for lunch in the city of Dong'e in

In this May 14, 2018, photo, donkeys raised by subcontractors of the world's largest donkey skin gel producer await for lunch in the city of Dong'e in

This May 14, 2018, drone photo shows a donkey farm run by one of the many local subcontractors supplying the world's largest donkey skin gel producer

This May 14, 2018, drone photo shows a donkey farm run by one of the many local subcontractors supplying the world's largest donkey skin gel producer

In this May 14, 2018, photo, donkeys raised by subcontractors of the world's largest donkey skin gel producer await for lunch in the city of Dong'e in

In this May 14, 2018, photo, donkeys raised by subcontractors of the world's largest donkey skin gel producer await for lunch in the city of Dong'e in

This May 14, 2018, photo shows a tag marking a donkey as property of the world's largest donkey skin gel producer, known by its Chinese initials DEEJ

This May 14, 2018, photo shows a tag marking a donkey as property of the world's largest donkey skin gel producer, known by its Chinese initials DEEJ

In this May 14, 2018, photo, donkeys raised by subcontractors of the world's largest donkey skin gel producer are seen in the city of Dong'e in easter

In this May 14, 2018, photo, donkeys raised by subcontractors of the world's largest donkey skin gel producer are seen in the city of Dong'e in easter

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — 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.