U.S. Endangered Species Act protects Tibetan antelope

Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Yarmouth Port, MA
 The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced that it will protect the Tibetan antelope (Pantholops hodgsonii) under the Endangered Species Act. IFAW, (The International Fund for Animal Welfare - www.ifaw.org) welcomes this decision.
Tibetan antelope, also called chiru, inhabit the high plateaus of western China. A century ago, more than one million Tibetan antelope roamed China and India. Today, the population has dropped below 75,000 due to the demand for its fur, which is used to make expensive shawls. In 1999, the Chinese government estimated that poachers kill 20,000 antelope every year to supply the international fashion market, despite national and international laws that protect the species.

For the last eight years, working in collaboration with enforcement agencies in China, India, Nepal, the UK, France and the U.S., IFAW has advocated for stronger protection for Tibetan antelope.

“Tibetan antelope are being driven to extinction for fashion products that no one needs,” said IFAW’s Asia Regional Director Grace Gabriel. “The Endangered Species Act listing provides U.S. law enforcement agencies with additional power to prosecute criminals involved in illegal trade of this highly endangered species.”

For more than 20 years, Tibetan antelope have been illegally slaughtered for their fine underbelly wool to supply expensive “shahtoosh” shawls to fashion outlets in India, New York, Paris, London and elsewhere. A single shahtoosh shawl sells for more than U.S. $15,000.

The Tibetan antelope’s range covers 50,000 square miles of rugged terrain with elevations over 13,000 feet, making anti-poaching efforts difficult. Tibetan antelope wool is smuggled through Nepal into Kashmir, where it is woven into shahtoosh shawls and sold internationally.

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