Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Cost of One Shahtoosh Shawl? At least Three Tibetan Antelopes

You must have heard of Shahtoosh shawls, right? Apart from being a work of art, a Shahtoosh shawl is also a perfect symbol of your status. Quite understandably. After all it is so costly. And you know the cost? At least three Tibetan antelopes.

A unique member of the global wildlife, the Tibetan antelope is native to the Chinese part of the Tibetan Plateau region. Considered to be an endangered species, the estimated population of this strikingly beautiful animal is less than 75,000, and even that number is fast declining.

And why is it so? Well, it is because of the skin of the hapless animal, which the world knows as Shahtoosh, and which is the raw material for the world famous Shahtoosh shawl.

Reportedly around 20,000 Tibetan antelopes (also called Chiru) are killed by poachers every year, to ensure that the worldwide Shahtoosh trade is never short of raw materials.

Since the Tibetan antelope or Chiru never sheds its skin, therefore the only way to obtain Shahtoosh is to kill the animal. Generally three to five Chirus need to be killed to gather enough raw materials for a single Shahtoosh shawl.

After killing, the dead animals are skinned, after which the skin is used to manufacture the world famous Shahtoosh shawls (and other Shahtoosh products). Then these Shahtoosh products are illegally transported to fashion capitals worldwide, where they are sold at astronomical costs.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) – which controls the trade in endangered species products – has completely banned international trade in Tibetan antelope products (including Shahtoosh). It is illegal to import Shahtoosh into many countries, including the USA (ironically, Shahtoosh products are so popular in the US fashion industry).

Unfortunately, despite such laws being in place, the Shahtoosh trade is going on in full swing. This is because it is not enough to have laws. There must also be a strong public protest across the board against every person who is by any means related to the Shahtoosh trade. There should be a widespread public sensitization campaign to educate the common people. People must be discouraged from using Shahtoosh products, and the ones who use these products should be publicly taunted and humiliated (so that they are forced to stop using these products). The fashion crazy (read status crazy) morons must realize that the life of a single Tibetan antelope is much more precious than their so called social status.

Also, we must stop purchasing any product from the shops and retailers which sell Shahtoosh products. I mean, we should not only refrain from purchasing Shahtoosh products, but should also refrain from purchasing any products from the shops who sell Shahtoosh products. In a nutshell, they should be boycotted. Only then they will be forced to mend their ways.

Information courtesy:

Photo courtesy:


flowergirl said...

I think the source of your article is a bit dated. The latest article there is from the year 2000!

Please do a google search, and you will see that Shatoosh trade and manufacture in India, incl J&K is illegal now.

Actually, there was a controversy recently because Mehbooba Mufti wants the ban lifted!!

Please refer this link.

Raja Basu said...


Thank you so much for rectifying my mistake. I stand corrected.

I am grateful to you.