- The shawl made of chiru wool is called "Shahtoosh".
- For centuries, Indians and Pakistanis have regarded "Shahtoosh" as the finest decorations and collectibles.
- In September 2016, IUCN lowered the Tibetan antelope from "endangered" to "near endangered" level.
Tibetan antelope, also known as Chiru, is an animal regarded as elves on the Tibetan Plateau. Chiru Tibetan antelope is unique and rare species in China, and one of the ancient and mysterious ones. Suddenly one day, countless Tibetan antelopes were illegally hunted and killed, and it was only because of soft chiru wool that can be used to produce a shawl called “Shahtoosh”. The Chinese government has stepped up its crackdown on poaching to protect the endangered antelopes. IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) included Tibetan antelope on the protection list too. Let us approach the world of Tibetan antelope.
Chiru antelope wool is compared to “soft gold”, slender and soft. The shawl made of chiru wool is called “Shahtoosh”, which derivates from Persian and means “king of wool”, with an implication of the wool used by the king. Therefore, it was also translated as “The Emperor’s Shawl”.
For centuries, Indians and Pakistanis have regarded “Shahtoosh” as the finest decorations and collectibles.
Shahtoosh shawl gradually takes a place in the European and American markets as a fashion, and people are proud of having a Shatoosh. Gradually, it has become a symbol of wealth and status. The shahtoosh shawl price reaches a maximum of US$40,000 per piece. Compared with the gold of the same weight, this is more popular in international illegal trade.
In historical records, the number of Tibetan antelopes has reached as many as one million, but due to the international market’s demand for chiru wool, they encountered a large number of poaching in the last 20 years of the 20th century, and the number dropped sharply. By 1995 there were only more than 50,000 in Tibet.
For this reason, since 1979, Tibetan antelopes have been under the legal protection of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). In 2008, Tibetan antelope chiru was listed in IUCN. It is illegal to kill, injure or trade this animal all over the world.
Chiru Antelope Protection in China
Tibetan antelope is also called the “Chinese Water Tower”. The Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is the main habitat of Tibetan antelopes. It can be said that the ecology of this area will deteriorate drastically without the Tibetan antelope, and many Tibet wildlife will also face extinction.
Over the years, in order to protect chiru Tibetan antelope and other rare Tibetan animals, China established the Altun Mountain National Nature Reserve in 1983, the Chang Tang Nature Reserve in 1992, the National Hoh Xil Nature Reserve at the end of 1997, and the Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve in 2000.
In September 2016, IUCN lowered the Tibetan antelope from “endangered” to “near endangered” level. As of early 2021, the wild population of Tibetan antelopes has recovered from 70,000 in 1999 to more than 300,000.
Today, still not many areas on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau can see the endangered Tibetan antelopes. If you are traveling in Tibet, Chang Tang Nature Reserve and Hoh Xil Nature Reserve are the best places to witness Tibetan antelope. Visitors to Tibet by train can see the running Tibetan antelopes when the train passes through the Hoh Xil Nature Reserve. In addition, you may also see wild cattle, wild donkeys, white-lipped deer, and brown bears.