The donkey penises were being smuggled to Hong Kong in 16 sacks but customs officers at Murtala Muhammed airport in the Nigerian city of Lagos intercepted the packages.
Sambo Dangaladima, the customs controller at the airport, told the BBC that the animal parts were found in sacks in the animal export section. He said that a pungent smell was coming from the bags, arousing suspicion among the customs officers who then opened the packages to find the 7,000 donkey penises.
The illicit trade of donkey parts – including the animal’s penises and skin – from Nigeria to China is common. The animal parts are used in China to make a traditional medicine called ejiao.
Nigeria is trying to curb the export of donkey skins which has drastically diminished the country’s population of the work animals, particularly in the north. Nigerian senators in 2021 proposed to ban the killing of donkeys and the export of their skins.
The lawmakers said such a ban on killing donkeys would further curb the export of donkey skins and genitals — which Nigeria prohibits — to countries like China where the skins are used in popular traditional medicines. That proposed legislation has not yet been passed into law.
“The major beneficiary in this trade is the donkey [skin] merchants in China,” Muhammad Datti, one of the federal lawmakers supporting the proposed ban, has said. “This animal is facing extinction [in Nigeria] and it is an animal you cannot breed in large numbers because of the very low rate of fertility.”