Forestry officials in Qinghai Province, Tibet
and the Xinjiang
Uygur autonomous regions have agreed to establish a transregional
patrol as well as an anti-poaching information-sharing system to
protect one of the country's most endangered species, the Tibetan
antelope. The agreement was signed recently in Xining, the capital
In the past two years, the area where Qinghai, Tibet and Xinjiang
meet has become a haven for poachers and smugglers of Tibetan
antelopes, according to Cai Ga, director of the Hoh Xil Nature
Reserve Administrative Bureau.
China has conducted two national anti-poaching campaigns, in
1999 and 2004, but antelope killing and smuggling remain rampant in
the border area.
Taking the advantage of the locale's geography, poachers have
evaded patrols in the 600,000 square kilometers of grassland in the
Hoh Xil Nature Reserve, the Altun Mountains and the Qiangtang
Nature Reserve, habitats of the Tibetan antelopes.
Starting from 2005, the three regions will organize
anti-poaching blitzes in those fringe areas, reported Zheng Jie,
vice director of the Qinghai Forestry Bureau. During daily patrols,
each regional team must follow and investigate poaching incidents
and work with the other teams to solve cases.
The three regions started exchanging information pertaining to
Tibetan antelope smuggling this year, officials said.
Tibetan antelopes are a Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species (CITES) Class One and China Grade One protected
Poaching of Tibetan antelope is fueled by international trade in
the animals' undercoat, known as shahtoosh. The softest, warmest
wool in the world, the fiber measures nine to 12 microns in
diameter, about one-fifth that of a human hair. A single shahtoosh
shawl may sell for as much as US$18,000 in some Western
The only way to obtain shahtoosh is to kill the animal. Three to
five antelopes yield sufficient wool for one shawl. It is believed
that as many as 20,000 Tibetan antelope are killed annually to
supply the trade.
Also on the endangered species front this week, reports from
Shantou Customs indicate that around 8,100 antelope horns, weighing
2.4 tons in total, were recently seized in Jieyang City, Guangdong
Province. Some of the horns appear to be from Saiga antelope, which
once thrived in China but have now disappeared from the
The horns were discovered in a business premise whose owner was
unable to produce proof of legal purchase and eventually admitted
that they had been smuggled from Russia. The owner has been
detained pending further investigation.
Any import or export of antelopes or antelope products require
Police said that some of the horns are believed to be from Saiga
antelopes, which disappeared from China in the 1940s owing to
habitat shrinkage and rampant poaching. Saiga horn is often used in
traditional Chinese medicine for treatment of fever, stroke,
headache and dizziness.
Because of worldwide depletion of Saiga populations, the animals
are a CITES Class Two protected species and a Grade One protected
species in China.
China acceded to CITES in 1981.
(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency, China.org.cn August