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Tibetans Set Furs Ablaze to Protest Endangered Animal Trade

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 2006/02/13; February 13, 2006.]

13 Feb 2006
Kyodo News Agency

Ethnic Tibetans in western China are burning pelts to protest the use of endangered wildlife species for their traditional clothing, Tibet advocacy groups said Monday.

Since Jan. 29, the traditional New Year's Day for Chinese and Tibetan people, people in the eastern Qinghai Province county of Rebkong have burned the skins of endangered species, namely otters and foxes, the Britain-based Tibet Information Network said.

Last Tuesday, two Rebkong villagers torched the skins in public view at the Rongwo Monastery, and three families joined in, the information network said. They burned the pelts of foxes, otters, leopards and tigers, apparently in response to the Dalai Lama's advice in India last month to about 9,000 Tibetans against using endangered species.

"The furs used to trim clothes are collected and partially burned in front of the owner and onlookers," the network said, calling the protest by fire "a strong local movement."

Smaller-scale public pelt burnings also have been staged in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, said Dawa Tsering, Tibet field manager for the Swiss-based environmental group WWF.

On Sunday, the pelt burning campaign was scheduled to end with a pyre on a public square in Rebkong, the information network said.

The Chinese government has not officially reacted to the pelt burnings, Tsering said.

Fur trimmings for clothing are becoming fashionable among Tibetans in China, the WWF says in a statement to be released later this month. It calls the trimmings a "status symbol."

More than half of Chinese Tibetans know the sale of pelts is illegal but many do not know why, Tsering said.

The Dalai Lama, along with the Wildlife Trust of India and the Britain-based Care for the Wild International, in April initiated a conservation awareness campaign to discourage Tibetans from getting into the wildlife trade.

In August, the Environmental Investigation Agency, also a British group, and the Wildlife Protection Society of India found in a survey that tiger and leopard skins were being sold in the Tibet Autonomous Region for costumes and ceremonial events.

In 46 shops surveyed, 54 leopard skin garments and 24 tiger skin garments were openly displayed and seven whole leopard skins were for sale, the gr oups say.

Tibetans in China obtain most of their tiger and leopard skins from India, Nepal and other South Asian countries, Tsering said. He said the otter skins come from Pakistan.

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