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Tibetan Antelope

Chiru tibetan antelope 08.15.2012 buyer beware

Chiru Tibetan Antelope

scarfWhat a beautiful shawl! It's soft and warm, yet so lightweight. You can hardly believe that you were able to find something like this in a little tourist shop. The price is a little steep-upwards of $3,000, but it would make a wonderful gift for your mom, sister or a special treat for yourself. But walking out of the shop with this shawl is a serious matter.

The shawl that you have picked up is commonly known as shahtoosh and is made from the wool of the chiru, the endangered Tibetan antelope. Don't get fooled by the local salesman who may tell you that the wool is gathered by collecting tufts of chiru hair that got caught on bushes when the animal is grazing - it's quite the opposite. The antelope must be killed to collect the wool. It takes 3 to 5 dead Tibetan antelopes to make one shahtoosh shawl. If the demand for the shawls continues, the antelope could be extinct within the next few years.

If you do purchase the shawl you may be in for an even bigger surprise when you pass through customs. The Tibetan antelope is on Appendix I of CITES, meaning that international trade is prohibited. And many countries, including the United States, are strictly enforcing that prohibition. This could mean hefty fines or even jail time for people who try to bring the wraps into the country.