Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on August 16, 2008
China’s been under such fire lately. People are pulling out of the Beijing Olympic games right and left because of the country’s pollution issues or alleged contributions to the Darfur crisis. It seems we’re also bombarded with constant reports of Chinese manufactured lead-based toys that endanger children. But not I’m going to talk about any of that. I’m only sharing happy thoughts here as I shine the good light on one of the world’s oldest and most fascinating civilizations.
While the Chinese may not care about kids eating poisoned paint (wait — I wasn’t going to talk about that), they care a lot about the Tibetan antelope. And the rare species, which is found exclusively in China’s Tibet-Qinghai region, not has not been doing well since the late 20th Century. This medium-sized bovid, who also goes by the name of chiru, is a gregarious animal that has a life span of about eight years.
It’s also beloved enough to have been chosen as Fuwa Yingying, a mascot for this summer games. (What? I didn’t say “Olympics”!) This wouldn’t have been likely 10 years ago, as the population of the species was believed to be under 20,000. In fact, in 1979, the chiru was “one of the first animals put under protection in China,” according to CCTV.
But the good news, according to the director of northwest China’s Hol Xil Natural Reserve, is that the chiru’s population is back up. Tripled even, in ten years.
But how did we get from a cool million Tibetan antelopes in 1900 to a mere 20,000 in 1998? You guessed it. The usual greedy people who aren’t comfortable enough in their own skin and feel compelled to wear some animal’s instead. In this case, we’re talking about shahtoosh, a luxurious fabric woven from the chiru’s wool. I’ve never heard of it either, but evidently it’s hugely popular on the International market. And the fact that one shahtoosh shawl requires the pelts of three to five Tibetan antelopes has made the animal a valuable commodity for poachers.
That is, until the Hol Xil administration swooped in. In what sounds like a great gangster movie montage, they “organized more than 300 patrols in the past decade, covering nearly 700,000 kilometers. They have cracked more than 100 cases of armed poaching and seized approximately 4,000 Tibetan antelope furs,” says CCTV.
And now, thanks to their efforts and the protection offered by the reserve, the Tibetan antelope is not only likely to survive, it’s destined to become a star this summer. That is, unless it falls prey to China’s deadly smog. (Doh!)