Chocolate and Gold Coins

Friday, September 16, 2005

Stupid Quote of the Day

Desipundit linked to Uma’s Animal Rights blog. The post was about saving a wild antelope called the Chiru whose wool is used to make Shahtoosh shawls. The obvious question I had was: “If these animals were domesticated, would it be possible to get their wool without killing them?” Uma says no and links to this article:

Q: Is it necessary to kill the Tibetan Antelope to obtain its wool?
A: Yes. Tibetan Antelopes live on the Tibetan plateau and their wool protects them from the region's sub-zero temperatures. If this protective coat of wool is removed, the animal cannot survive.

Argh! How could the person who wrote this paragraph be so stupid!

My guess is that the Chiru could be raised just like sheep (in a warmer climate, of course). I’m not advocating it but it seems a great shame that they are being hunted to extinction for wool that could be obtained by not killing the animal.

But thieves and poachers have little mercy. They have nothing invested in the Chiru. That’s a big part of the problem. Indeed Swaminathan Aiyar is correct, the Chiru would be saved by domestication. If you own Chirus, you won’t kill them if it isn’t necessary.

My opinion: if you cannot stop the poaching, you need to consider plan B. Otherwise, bottom line, the species goes extinct.


  • I think it is done because it is cheaper to poach than to raise .... Sick but true

    By Blogger @mit, at 3:21 PM  

  • Completely agree with this one.

    I have heard a somewhat similar argument regarding tree protection laws in US. There is this persuasive contention that banning the felling of rare trees fearing extinction is actually dangerous for them, since people, fearing law, won't grow those trees.

    By Blogger froginthewell, at 3:23 PM  

  • Hi @mit and froginthewell
    @mit: Poachers don't think like businessmen. They might make more money being farmers (although it may not be legal to raise Chiru domestically), but they just look for literally the quick kill.

    Froginthewell: That is interesting about the rare trees. I would definitely support trying to tree-farm these rare trees.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 3:40 PM  

  • michael: swaminathan aiyar's article itself says that the shahtoosh cannot be obtained without killing the animal.

    By Blogger uma, at 6:01 AM  

  • Getting the wool used for Shahtoosh is not as easy as shearing sheep, because Shahtoosh requires the down of the Tibetan Antelope. It is very likely that if the antelopes were sheared (were that possible) and left in the wild, they would die of expposure.

    However, the Tibetan Antelope is known to shed its down after winter. Given the high price that Shahtoosh commands, it might be commercially viable to gather such down shed by domesticated antelopes. This would probably take the bottom out of the poached-Chiru-fur market. I think that there is an Indian government research project into precisely this.

    However, since any such plans for commercial exploitation of Tibetan Antelopes would require the permission of the Indian government and the even more spectacularly corrupt and byzantine J&K state government, they are bound never to take off, and the Chiru as a species is doomed to extinction.

    By Blogger Kunal, at 4:55 AM  

  • Hi Uma and Kunal
    Uma: First of all, what would Dr. Aiyar know about this? He's an economist. He doesn't know, I don't know, you don't know, maybe no one knows. Let us not jump to conclusions.

    I would guess that if one were to shear a Chiru and leave it at sub-zero weather, it would die. No one would consider doing this. If the Chiru would be domesticated, it would be raised in a warmer climate where it could not die of exposure. Now it could be that there are a host of reason why it is impractical to shear the wool off of a live Chiru (like maybe they are big a mean and will kick you). But these problems could be overcome, possibly. It wouldn't be true to say it is impossible.

    Kunal: See Uma above.

    My guess is that no one really knows what could be done with domesticated Chirus because they have never been domesticated.

    I think the point is that the government won't let anyone try to domesticate the Chiru even if it is the only way to save it. The government cannot be bothered with something some trivial as a creature that is about to go extinct. That is the real pity here.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 3:21 PM  

  • Michael, I didn't say Aiyar would know because he's an economist. I meant that when he was writing his column in a national daily, I imagine he would have researched it somewhat. Anyway, what little I have read about the chiru (by people who have worked in the wild) also indicates that the shahtoosh cannot be removed without killing the animal. The answer, to me, seems to be in protecting - and not in farming to kill.

    By Blogger uma, at 9:37 PM  

  • Hi Uma
    Well, I wrote about this in another post above.
    In any case, there is no reason to think anyone really knows how practical it is to shear Chiru's like sheep. They have never been domesticated.

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 7:05 AM  

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