Dealing in death does not faze a criminal percentage of Pakistani shawl dealers bent on profiteering from a small percentage of fashionistas for whom the slaughter of endangered antelopes means zilch. The shawls in question are the world renowned shatooshes; their weaving is so fine that they can pass through a ring.
To have such a shawl or scarf as part of a wedding dowry is still deemed a ‘must’ by people with more money than respect for disappearing wildlife. As a result of this ‘under the counter’ trade, the Chiru or Tibetan Antelope is on the verge of extinction. Shatooshes are woven from the silky undercoat of the Chiru, yet despite an international ban on trading in this, poachers in Tibet and Ladakh in India, where migratory antelopes spend the summer, are hunting them down to meet market demand for their precious fur. The Chiru must be killed for the fur to be collected and the species has already been wiped out in Nepal.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, the Chiru population was halved between 1980 and 2000, and whilst the remaining number, approximately 75,000 to 100,000, may sound high, this is not the case. Chiru, like many other antelope species, breed once a year and half their young die before they are three months old.
Owners of handicraft stores in Pakistan are fully aware that selling shatooshes is illegal. Those who do so face a prison sentence of two years or a fine of one million rupees but this has not deterred them from selling shatooshes which are smuggled over the border from Indian Kashmir, where specialist weavers are based.
The only surefire way of saving the Chiru – Pakistan is a signatory to Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) under which trading shatooshes is globally banned – is to publicly shame any member of the so-called Pakistani elite who dares to buy – or wear – a shatoosh.
– B Khan
First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on November 23, 2014.