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Suspected Poacher Dies In Shoot-out With Police Over Tibetan Antelope

BEIJING, June 21 (AFP) - An armed man suspected of poaching protected Tibetan antelope was killed in northwest Xinjiang in a shoot-out between police and more than 30 poachers, a newspaper reported Monday.

The six-hour showdown took place Sunday at the State Nature Reserve on Aherjin Mountain as a task force closed in on a camp of suspected poachers, the Beijing Youth Daily said.

The team had been tracking the poachers since June 18, when 475 Tibetan antelope carcasses were discovered on the reserve, the report said.

Investigators estimated the ring had killed more than 800 female antelope, whose soft hide is used to make much-sought shawls, called shahtoosh, it added.

Police followed tire tracks leading from the carcasses to one encampment of suspects, who then tipped off authorities about the whereabouts of the others.

But the task force found itself seriously outnumbered and equipped only with "limited bullets and poor weapons" as gunfire erupted, and the team had to call for police back-up from the regional capital Urumuqi and a detachment of the People's Armed Police, the paper said.

One of the poachers was killed before the other suspects withdrew from the camp.

The Tibetan antelope is native to the grasslands of Qinghai province and the Xinjiang and Tibetan autonomous regions, and its hide has been sold illegally since the early 1990s.

Shahtoosh made from the animal's hair can fetch as much as 10,000 dollars, and Chinese wildlife specialists estimate only about 50,000 Tibetan antelope survive due to poaching.


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