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13-year Prison Sentence for Antelope Poachers
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Two poachers of Tibetan antelopes, a highly endangered species, were sentenced to 13 years in prison in southwestern Tibet Autonomous Region, the local government said on Tuesday.


The Intermediate People's Court of Xigaze Prefecture found Cering Toinzhub, a 57-year-old retired doctor, and Baima Cering, a villager from Tradom County, guilty of shooting and killing 59 Tibetan antelopes at Gar County, a habitat of the rare animal, between February and March this year.


The two were also fined 5,000 yuan (US$625) each.


The public security bureau of Tradom County established a special team to deal with the case and caught the suspects in May. They also confiscated pelts and weapons.


The Tibet-Qinghai Plateau in west China is the habitat of the Tibetan antelope. Its population has dropped from several million to below 100,000 in the last two decades due to extensive poaching and habitat destruction.


International traffickers make shahtoosh shawls, a luxury item that uses the fur of three to five Tibetan antelopes to make just one.


Since 1979, the Tibetan antelope has been recognized as an endangered species and protected under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species. Since 1989, the species has been a class-A protected animal under China's Wildlife Protection Law.


China has established three nature reserves to protect the rare creatures, covering a total of more than 600,000 sq km, an area 40 times the size of Beijing.


(Xinhua News Agency December 7, 2005)

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