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Chiru Today’s Endangered All-Star, the Chiru or Tibetan Antelope, once roamed the Tibetan Plateau by the thousands: Only 50 years ago, a million Chiru grazed across the steppe. But then came the shatoosh shawl, or ring shawl, made of a fabric so fine that an entire length of cloth could be drawn through a ring. Hugely popular in western countries, the shawls adorned the shoulders of the wealthy, but the fur could not be taken unless the animal was killed. Poachers shot their way through herd after herd, reducing the number to perhaps 75,000. In 2002, a ban on the manufacturing of the fabric began to be enforced in India, and China, India, and Nepal have enacted laws protecting the species. China, however, by opening a major new railway to Lhasa, the capitol of Tibet, may have dealt a severe blow: By encouraging Han Chinese to settle throughout Tibet, and opening new routes of entry, the government has made it all to easy for poachers and traffickers to continue their trade. To ensure that the Chiru could continue their migration across these new transportation corridors, a Chinese environmentalist, Xin Yang, formed a government-approved NGO—Greenriver—and planned a number of antelope-friendly underpasses passing beneath one of the new roads in the region. By 2005, 2,800 antelope were crossing the Qinghai-Tibetan road, a significant improvement from the year before. Xin Yang is now working on a series of crossing structures for the accompanying railway. In 2006 and again in 2008, Xin Yang received an award in support of his efforts from the UK-based Whitley Fund for Nature. To donate to Whitley, to support Xin and other enterprising conservationists, visit their Donations Page.
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