criminal wool: the illegal trade in shatoosh, an extremely fine and expensive wool, is putting the chiru, a Tibetan antelope, at risk of extinction. Demand for scarves and shawls made from the animal's coat is on the increase, and it fetches prices as high as US$5,000.
Investigations by TRAFFIC, the WWF-funded wildlife trade-monitoring network, reveal that socialites in Europe are among the most voracious consumers of shatoosh. Seizures of shatoosh in a number of European countries in the mid 1990s seem to have moved the illegal trade underground and onto the internet.
International trade in shatoosh has been prohibited under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) since 1979. However, it was not until the late 1980s that the world's fashion elite ignited a demand that has caused the poaching of as many as 20,000 chiru a year.
victims of fashion: up to five Tibetan antelope are killed to make just one shatoosh shawl. “The fashion elite has fuelled a demand which now threatens the very survival of the species”, declared Stuart Chapman, WWF's International Conservation Officer, “This illegal trade must stop - an endangered species such as the Tibetan antelope should not be sacrificed for the sake of vanity."
chiru’s ID: most chiru are found in China, where numbers have fallen from an estimated million at the turn of the century to fewer than 75,000 in 1999. Under the Chinese wildlife protection law, the chiru is afforded the highest level of protection, and trade in chiru parts without government permission is strictly prohibited. In India, trade in chiru products is prohibited everywhere apart from the states of Jammu and Kashmir, where shatoosh shawls have been dowry items for centuries. However, in contrast to the recent craze for shatoosh on the Western market, this activity poses little threat to the survival of the species.
chiru’s AID: the TRAFFIC report suggests the following actions…
And, above all, if in doubt of a shawl's origin, just don't buy it!
- consumers should refuse to buy or wear shatoosh. Pashmina is an excellent alternative, but it is important to be sure that shatoosh products are not being labelled as pashmina;
- friends of consumers can discourage demand for shatoosh by spreading the truth. Wearing shatoosh is supporting the likely extinction of the chiru, the smuggling of its wool, and the murder of those trying to protect the species;
- the international community should fund efforts to enhance and expand anti-poaching efforts throughout the Tibetan antelope's range;
- the governments of the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir should make the manufacture and trade of shatoosh illegal;
- all countries should stop internal trade, export and import of shatoosh products;
- law enforcement authorities should develop and share reliable laboratory methods for identifying Tibetan antelope hair in shatoosh products;
- concerned governments and conservation organisations should launch information campaigns aimed at shatoosh consumers, explaining the serious implications - for both Tibetan antelope and consumers - of buying, selling and wearing shatoosh. Even travelling with a shatoosh of one's own can be illegal.