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Tibet Says No Tiger Skin Ritual Robes

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 2006/02/14; February 14, 2006.]

Chetan Chauhan
New Delhi, February 13, 2006

One of the biggest market for tiger and leopard skin -Tibet - is fast turning its back on the use of skins robes for traditional ceremonies.

The upsurge against the skin was seen over the past two months in several regions of Tibet, after Dalai Lama's condemnation of its usage in a recent Kalchakra ceremony in Amravati.

"It started from Rebgong Siherji village where two villagers first burnt animal skins. Within half-an-hour three, more families joined. And slowly the campaign spread to other provinces of Tibet where animals skins are being burnt," said Ashok Kumar, vice-chairman of Wildlife Trust of India. Tiger and leopard skins are also vanishing from markets, from where they were being sold.

But, the biggest boost tiger conservationists got was on February 7, when one of the biggest festival - Great Prayer Festival of Molam Quinmo - started. Here, the villagers destroyed hundreds of tiger and leopard skins and vowed to fight against usage of animal skin across Tibet. The festival ended on Sunday. A recent investigation by Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) revealed that most of tiger and leopard skins from India were going to Tibet for ceremonial robes. "The skins were being smuggled into Tibet via Nepal and business have been booming over the past few years because of easy availability of tiger body parts," said Belinda Wright of WPSI, who was part of the investigating team.

The NGOs were quick to react. A global campaign to save tigers was launched. As part of the effort, NGOs circulated tapes of the investigation at the Kalchakra ceremony and Dalai Lama publicly condemned the use of skins for robes. He also launched Tibetan Conservation Awareness Campaign in which 3,000 Tibetans wowed to support the campaign. The word circulated in Tibet and people started destroying tiger skins.

"Injustice been done to the rare animals and we should try and stop it," said Barbara Mass of Care for the Wild International.

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