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Wool of 3,000 Poached Tibetan Antelopes Seized
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More than 200 kilograms of shahtoosh wool skinned from endangered Tibetan antelopes were seized this week in the largest ever smuggling case of its type.

About 3,000 Tibetan antelopes, or chiru as they are known locally, are believed to have been slaughtered for the 215 kilograms of high-priced wool, seized by Indian officials on Tuesday, He Yong, an official with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) China office, told China Daily yesterday.

The wool seized was being transported in a truck along with dozens of bags of sheep wool from Pithoragarh in Uttaranchal of India. The wool was to be taken to Kashmir to be woven into shawls. Three people have reportedly been arrested, according to the New Delhi wildlife department.

The case greatly shocked international wildlife conservation groups including the IFAW and the Wildlife Trust of India, which have worked over the years to protect these rare antelopes from extinction.

"It was estimated that 6 per cent of the entire population of the Tibetan antelope has been wiped out in this one instance alone," He said.

A century ago, more than 1 million Tibetan antelopes roamed the highlands of Tibet and Qinghai. Today it is estimated only 50,000 remain in the wild, official statistics show.

It is estimated that poachers kill 20,000 Tibetan antelopes each year to feed the demand for shahtoosh. "At the current rate of population decline, the antelopes will become extinct long before the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008," He said.

The wool from the Tibetan antelopes is known as shahtoosh, "the king of wools," for its fine texture. It is woven into luxury shawls which can sell for up to US$17,500 each on the international market.

(China Daily April 11, 2003)

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