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Chang Tang



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Look! There! On the Ridge!
Photograph by Galen Rowell

If you're a wildlife biologist, you see ten Tibetan antelope, or chiru, on the Chang Tang. If you're a photographer, you see a symphony of silhouettes. And if you're a poacher, you see a fat paycheck. After killing these animals for their extraordinarily soft wool, called shahtoosh, poachers smuggle the pelts into Kashmir. Craftsmen there weave the chiru hair, finer than cashmere, into scarves and shawls, which into the late 1990s sold for thousands of dollars—as much as $15,000 for a finely embroidered shawl—at boutiques in Paris, Milan, and New York. Since the chiru is an endangered species, this trade was illegal, and though it has now been greatly reduced, chiru poaching continues.




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