The Tibetan antelope lives on a cold, cold plateau and grows a fine fuzzy under-fur — one-fifth the width of human hair — to keep it warm. Not coincidentally, it’s also endangered. It’s lost more than half of its population in the past 20 years, and part of the reason is that humans use that fuzzy fur to make really soft, really warm shawls. The Guardian reports:
Shahtoosh shawls are made by highly skilled Kashmiri artisans from the fine under-fur of the chiru (the Tibetan antelope) and they are prized in Pakistan. Processing or wearing shahtoosh is a punishable offence in India, and in Pakistan — where they are smuggled into from Indian Kashmir — anyone selling them face prison sentences of up to two years and fine of up to Rs1m (£5,805).
But people want them anyway — they’re often given as wedding gifts. But to harvest the wool, it’s necessary to kill the antelope — about four antelopes for every shawl. An antelope can only give birth to one fawn each year, and half of those usually die. It’s pretty simple math: Kill a lot of these fuzzy fellows, and they have a hard time replenishing themselves. Perhaps we can interest anyone shopping for wedding gifts in a nice non-endangered fondue pot instead?