Blitz planned against antelope shawls
Buyers and owners of shahtoosh shawls are being targeted in a publicity blitz to save the endangered Tibetan antelope, whose fur is used to make the expensive wraps.
The move by the World Wide Fund for Nature to enlist celebrity support to speak out against the trade comes as United States authorities investigate a Hong Kong firm which allegedly sold illegal shahtoosh shawls to 100 women.
Cocoon, run by Linda Ho McAfee, is currently under investigation by the US Fish and Wildlife Office. Officers allegedly found in her US offices a list of shawl buyers which includes several New York socialites and former model Christie Brinkley.
In 1995 Mrs McAfee had 110 shawls seized by the Agriculture and Fisheries Department.
However, after an 11-month probe, they were returned and the case dropped because the fur could not be conclusively identified as chirac, or Tibetan antelope.
The shawls are prized because of their fine texture and natural warmth.
Chirac are shot by poachers on the Tibetan plateau for their hides. They are usually moved via Nepal to Jammu and Kashmir where the material is woven into shawls before being shipped to New Delhi for export. It takes three to four antelope to make one shawl.
Yesterday, actors Teresa Lee Yi-hung and Simon Yam Tat-wah called on consumers to stop the demand for shahtoosh.
'Many people don't know that the animals are close to extinction . . . we want to bring this up and encourage people to choose a less deadly alternative,' said Ms Lee.
Programme officer for the WWF, Rob Parry-Jones, claims it is more effective to target consumers to stop demand for the product, rather than dealing with poachers. 'It's a more tangible market to deal with . . . there's an ongoing illegal trade now going further underground,' he said.
The maximum sentence for illegal trading in shahtoosh shawls is a $5 million fine and two years' jail.