Indian police have arrested two traders on March 17, 2002 in New Delhi and seized 80 Shahtoosh shawls, made from Tibetan antelope, in their possession, according to information received from the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI). The shawls would have been worth about US$400,000 in the international market, and represent the death of about 240 Tibetan antelope. WPSI had assisted the police on this.

The two traders, Fiaz Ahmed Parray (aged 37) and Ghulam Nabi (aged 44), are both residents of Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir.

“This case is a very positive breakthrough,” said Belinda Wright, Executive Director of WPSI.

The 80 shawls were top quality – they would have been worth about US$400,000 in the international market, and represent the death of about 240 Tibetan antelope. Fiaz and Ghulam are believed to be among the biggest suppliers of shahtoosh shawls in Delhi. They are also thought to be connected with the largest suppliers, and exporters, of shahtoosh in the world. The two traders told police that they had been involved in the trade since 1978.

Shahtoosh shawls are made from the underwool of the Tibetan antelope, which is now classified as one of the world’s most endangered species and is listed under Appendix I of CITES, and Schedule I of The Wild Life (Protection) Act. The survival of the antelope, which inhabits the remote mountain plateaus of Tibet , is severely threatened by large scale poaching to feed the demand for shahtoosh. The wool is smuggled from China and Tibet into India across remote Himalayan border passes, where it is usually bartered for other wildlife products including tiger bones. This deadly two-way trade thus fuels the slaughter of both species. The raw wool is spun and woven into shahtoosh shawls in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir.

In 1998, WPSI filed a historic Public Interest Litigation in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court regarding the trade in shahtoosh. The High Court delivered a judgment in this case on 1 May 2000, which in effect prohibited trade in shahtoosh in the State. The Court directed the State to “enforce the law against those who are carrying on business and trade in contravention of section 43 of the State Wildlife Act and provisions of CITES”.

Since action was not taken on the court order, WPSI returned to the High Court in August 2000 and filed an appeal requesting the court to once again direct the State Government to ban production and trade in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The case is still pending before the High Court.

Fiaz and Ghulam were produced in the ACMM court in Delhi on March 18, 2002. They have been remanded to Judicial Custody for 14 days.