NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Environment and Forests has refused to allow captive breeding of the Tibetan antelope, whose underfur is used for making the famous shahtoosh shawls.
The shawls’ sale and possession is banned in India and in many countries.
The ministry rejected the suggestion made by a Parliament panel asking to consider captive breeding as it will add to livelihood of Kashmiris. It also cited that China and Mongolia are breeding Chiru goats (Tibetan antelope) for its wool, which is very expensive. The cost of an embroidered shahtoosh shawl can run into crores of rupees.
Chiru have long been hunted for their underfur, which is renowned for its quality and has traditionally been transported to Srinagar, where it is woven into an extremely fine fabric to make shawls. It takes three to five hides to make a single shawl, and the wool cannot be sheared or combed; to collect the fur, the animals have to be killed.
The Parliament panel was of the view that the ministry should conserve and breed the Chiru goat, which can then be given to shawl makers for collecting hair. This would increase the number of these goats but would also add to the sustainable livelihood opportunities of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, who are a lot dependant on the handicraft of embroidered shawls.
The ministry said the Chiru is assessed as ‘Near Threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature 2017.
There have been representations from weavers and traders in J&K for the removal of ban on trade in shahtoosh through amendments in the Wildlife Acts of India.
“The Chinese failed to keep the Chiru in captivity due to its poor survival rates. Any attempt to do conservation breeding of the Chiru at very high altitude regions of Ladakh may neither be economical nor feasible as humans cannot be posted there for more than two-three months,” the ministry added.