Over the past 40 years, Earth has lost approximately half of its wildlife. Now, it’s up to activists to prevent further species from going extinct. One animal under threat is the Tibetan antelope. Reportedly, Westerners are paying $20,000 for one shawl, or shahtoosh, made from the threatened species.
According to National Geographic, the Tibetan antelope produces short, warm fleece. As a result, it is highly sought after by affluent buyers around the world. Shahtoosh is found almost exclusively in the Chantang area of Tibet, on the Tibetan Plateu.
A minimum of four Tibetan antelope are required to provide enough wool for just one scarf. The antelope are wild, which means they can’t be domesticated and shorn. As a result, the animals are killed and the wool is stripped from their carcasses. Afterward, the poachers smuggle the raw wool into India, where artisans in Kashmir weave it into scarves.
In the past century, global demand for shahtoosh has wiped out nearly 90 percent of the Tibetan antelope population, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Before the scarves became a fashion trend, they were a valued dowry item in India. Now, they’re considered “exotic” and are sought after by affluent Westerners. For the right size, color, and design, some folks will pay up to $20,000 for a single shawl.
In Sweden, customs officials regularly seize shahtoosh. In fact, between 2015 and 2018, the equivalent of more than 800 Tibetan antelope was seized. Most of the offenders were reportedly from Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the Middle East. “Shahtoosh is one of the main priorities for our office,” Mathias Lörtscher, the head of the team charged with enforcing CITES in Switzerland, told National Geographic.
Recovery efforts to save the Tibetan antelope became in the first decade of this century. China took lead by providing better enforcement of the animal’s strict CITES listing, which bans any international trade of the Tibetan antelope. In addition, China expanded Chantang National Nature Reserve, the protected area in and around which the animals calve.
That’s not all — in 2015, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Chinese Academy of Sciences classified Tibetan antelope as “near threatened” in the country’s National Red List of Vertebrates. The following year, the IUCN downlisted the animal from “endangered” to “near threatened.” Approximately 100,000 to 150,000 are estimated to remain in the wild.
Conservation efforts to protect the Tibetan antelope exist. But, they alone are not enough. Conscious readers like you need to take action and share this news to help put an end to the trend of making $20,000 antelope wool shawls. Not only is killing four animals for their wool inhumane, but it’s a trend that is best forgotten, considering $20,000 could go a long way in curbing global issues, such as poverty, homelessness, and inequality.
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