The exceptionally fine underfur of the Tibetan antelope or chiru insulates it against the harsh climate of the Tibetan plateau.
DHARAMSHALA, January 8: Officials in Nepal told reporters they have seized a major consignment of 1,150kgs of chiru (Tibetan antelope) wool from smugglers, which they said would fetch around US$40 million in the international black market.
The precious Shantoosh, packed in 46 bags, was confiscated from Thumi VDC of Gorkha district, situated at around 140 km west of the nation’s capital Kathmandu on Sunday
A special Central Investigation Bureau and Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation team have arrested Mangal Bahadur Gurung, 35, and Sharmila Baram, 25, with the wool of the endangered Tibetan antelope. CIB Director DIG Kesh Bahadur Shahi said the chiru wool was being smuggled to India from Tibet via Nepal for making luxury pashmina shawls.
Experts estimate that the smugglers and poachers in Tibet must have killed around 7,000 Tibetan antelopes to collect the seized 1,150 kg wool. Only 150 gram of the precious fur can be collected from one chiru.
One pashmina shawl, which is made from the fur of four chirus, would cost up to US$20,000 in the international fashion market, sources said.
According to the World Wide Fund for nature, demand for shantoosh has pushed the Tibetan antelope to the brink of extinction. The population of Chiru, which are found on the Tibetan plateau at elevations of up to 5,500m, is estimated to have declined by more than 50% during the last 20 years of the 20th century.
WWF notes that the chiru, which once ranged across the whole Tibetan Plateau, is now absent from all or most of the eastern plateau and the only remaining main stronghold of the species is in the remote Chang Thang area of north-western Tibet. In Nepal, chiru has become extinct.
The global wildlife group notes that illegal hunting of chiru, despite CITES protection and commercial international trade ban since 1979, continues to pose a threat to its existence.
WWF adds that Chinese government’s fencing of pastures on the Tibetan plateau and the Gormo-Lhasa railway line, which has cut off the Tibetan antelope’s migration routes and facilitated easier access to poachers, have also had an impact on its population.