Zone of Peace
Endangered Tigers Facing Fresh Assault From China
By Peter Foster, South Asia Correspondent, The Telegraph (UK) (Filed: 06/05/2006)
The fight to save the last remaining Indian tigers has suffered a fresh blow after it emerged that newsreaders on a
Chinese state television channel have been ordered to wear costumes fringed with tiger-fur.
The ruling, issued by a Communist Party propaganda unit in Qinqhai province, north-west China, dismayed environmentalists who have been campaigning against the wearing of the Tibetan ceremonial robes - or chuba.
Officially there are 3,600 tigers still living in the wild in India, but demand for the fur-trimmed chubas among a new class of wealthy Tibetans has fuelled an unprecedented rise in poaching over the past decade.
Last year it emerged that one major Indian reserve - Sariskar in Rajasthan - had been completely emptied of tigers, with some conservationists estimating the true number of wild tigers in India to be just 1,200.
This year campaigners scored a major coup when the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, said that Tibetans should be "ashamed" to wear animal furs and called on his followers to stop wearing tiger and leopard skins.
Conservationists were jubilant when hundreds of Tibetans defied the orders of the Chinese authorities and took to the streets to burn tiger, leopard and sea-otter skins in a public display of loyalty to the Dalai Lama.
However that campaign now looks to have back-fired as Chinese officials appeared to take political revenge on the Dalai Lama, even offering grants of 10,000 yuan (£680) to presenters who could not afford to buy new costumes.
Local sources in Tibet said that two senior party officials visited Qinghai television station last month and ordered members of its Amdo-language Tibetan channel to wear the chubas.
Radio Free Asia reported that Che Xizhen, head of Qinghai's provincial propaganda department, had issued the order, adding that wearing furs was now "a matter of politics".
"Two [officials] came to the television station and gave orders, saying, 'You've got to add fur linings to your clothes. This is compulsory or else'," a source said.
The existence of the order was later confirmed by Qinghai Television's station chief, Bai Jubi, in an interview with Radio Free Asia's Tibetan service.
However he said the decision to wear the chubas was aesthetically - not politically - motivated as the station's presenters' existing robes had become old and frayed and needed replacing.
The Dalai Lama's decision to back the campaign came after officials in Tibet intercepted 32 tiger, 579 leopard and 665 otter skins in a single shipment last year.
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