The Chiru or Tibetan antelope is found high up in the plains of the Tibetan Plateau extending from Lhasa in Tibet to Ladakh in India. There are estimated to be around 100,000 of these antelope left in the wild, although the animal remains the target of heavy poaching. The Chiru‚Äôs extremely fine under fleece is spun into wool known as shahtoosh and used for scarves and other high fashion accessories which can sell for prices in excess of US$50,000. Experts estimate that as many as 20,000 antelope a year are now being slaughtered. From China, they are smuggled into India and from there onto the world market. Despite the Chiru’s protection under CITES and its listing as a Class I protected animal by the 1989 Chinese national law on Wild Animal Protection, the organized trade in shahtoosh continues to threaten this species with extinction.
Chiru high on the Tibetan plateau. Photo: George Schaller