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Tibetan antelope Indian smuggling Shahtoosh shawls caught in Switzerland

antelope

The population of the Tibetan antelope has declined by over 90% since the beginning of the last century.

(Keystone)

An Indian man in illegal possession of Shahtoosh shawls made from the wool of wild Tibetan antelopes was apprehended by border guards in Basel.

 Swiss border guards seized five Shahtoosh wool shawls during a routine check on a train in Basel. The smuggler, a 53-year-old Indian citizen, had 122 shawls in his suitcase, including five made from the wool of the Tibetan antelope. International trade in the species is strictly prohibited and the animal has the same protected status as tigers or rhinos.  

The smuggler was on a train heading to Domodossola in Italy, the Federal Customs Administration said on Friday. He was illegally staying in Switzerland and can expect to pay a five-digit fine. 

Tibetan antelope wool is considered to be the most precious, warmest and softest in the world. Traders often show off their fine properties by passing the shawl though a ring. The wool is obtained from animals living in the wild on the Tibetan plateau. The antelopes are killed by poachers as they cannot be domesticated for shearing. To produce a single shawl, two to five Tibetan antelopes must be killed. A single Shahtoosh shawl can fetch up to CHF20,000 ($20,170). 

In 2015, a record of 72 Shahtoosh shawls were seized by the Swiss authorities. Last year, the number dropped to 34 largely due to decrease in inspections due to staff shortages and fewer shawls confiscated on average per seizure.

Keystone-SDA/ac

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