T1betan ‘fashion’ threatens Indian Tiger with extinction

Posted by Martyn

A new Environmental Investigation Agency report claims that rising demand for Indian Tiger skins, sold openly in T1bet, Sichuan and Gansu is rapidly pushing the Indian tiger to the brink of extinction.

T1betans prize the skins as trimming for their traditional ‘chuba’ costumes, worn twice a year during the New Year and Horse Festivals. A new class of rich T1betans have recently made fortunes selling a local caterpillar fungus and a rare mushroom, both used in Chinese medicine.

Traditionally, demand for tiger bones used in Chinese medicine fuelled the poaching trade but this new desire for clothing is driving demand to unsustainable levels. For instance, a famous nature reserve in Sariska, India, now has no more wild tigers because of recent poaching.

“This is it. The end is now in sight for the Indian tiger. The sheer quantities of skins for sale is beyond belief. As the Sariska scandal so clearly showed, the Indian tiger is now being systematically wiped out.”

At horse festivals in Tibet and Sichuan, dancers, riders and spectators wandered about, openly wearing the traditional chuba, generously trimmed with tiger and leopard skin, while organizers and local officials joined in.

The skins are smuggled along well- established Nepali trading routes into Tibet where they are sold openly in shops in the capital, Lhasa.

As the tiger skins sell for approximately 100,000 yuan (US$12,000) in China, the authorities will be hard pressed to prevent the illegal trade as the amount of money being made by poachers and smugglers will ensure a steady supply.

The Discussion: 16 Comments

It’s a pity that the tiger skins weren’t being used to bind books about the D@lai L@ma, F*L*G and d3m0cr@cy. If that were the case, the illegal trade would be wiped out in a minute, perhaps less.

September 25, 2005 @ 10:07 pm | Comment

The sad thing about the poaching of Indian tigers, which number only about a couple of thousand according to the article, is that as the numbers of tigers in the world decreases, the already high prices of the skins sold in China will sky-rocket, thereby greatly increasing the incentive for poachers to continue killing these animals.

If the traders in Lhasa were clever they would snap up all the skins they could buy and keep them for the years ahead.

September 25, 2005 @ 11:00 pm | Comment

Brian, you’re absolutely right. Once the supply starts to dry up, and assuming that the same level of demand remains, then prices will rise.

September 25, 2005 @ 11:58 pm | Comment

Instead of saving a few near-extinct animals here and there, I think it is time for self-destruction of human beings so all animals on this planet could live in harmony.

September 26, 2005 @ 9:07 am | Comment

Great idea, wawa! Now, be our leader and show us the way! 🙂

September 26, 2005 @ 10:05 am | Comment

When I was looking after the Chinese Buddhist Association (or possibly the Buddhist Association of China – I can never remember which is the mainland and which is Taiwan, but it was the Beijing lot) at a conference on Buddhist Ecology and Development in Mongolia this summer, I had to spend some time persuading them that it might not be the most sensible thing for them to go home laden with bear skins and tiger paws …

September 26, 2005 @ 10:13 am | Comment

this is one of the side effect (or evidence?) that tibetans (or some of them) are getting richer in recent years.

since tiger skin is only for decoration purpose, i hope in this case the lamas (incl) dalai can come out to advocate the use of synthetic furs (the quality and feel of synthetic is much better now).

… and buddhism does not encourage killing

September 26, 2005 @ 4:25 pm | Comment

the “caterpillar fungus” (dongcong xiacao, winter cateerpillar summer grass) is also causing serious environment problem in Qinghai.

when he gatherers are searching for these fungus they have to dig out a lot of innocent grass, effectively destroying the praire.

i think there was some ban imposed by the chinese government, but as long as there is demand (and there is no better alternative for the farmers, mainly tibetans), there are poachers who are willing to do it.

September 26, 2005 @ 4:30 pm | Comment


Anyone who abuses a cat – ANY kind of cat – deserves a slow and painful death.

September 26, 2005 @ 8:42 pm | Comment

Ivan, now you gotta come clean and tell us why you are so obssessed with “cat”!!!

September 26, 2005 @ 10:53 pm | Comment


Just a cat lover. And more generally I hate to see any creature abused – although I’m not a vegetarian and I’m not going to get into an argument about animal rights.

It’s just that I hate senseless cruelty and disrespect for life. Although I will admit, I’m a bit genocidal when it comes to certain pests like cockroaches and Dobermans and snippy little Yorkshire terriers.

September 26, 2005 @ 11:52 pm | Comment


Dogs remind me of Republicans. They make lots of senseless noise, they mess up the streets, and they cravenly worship anyone more powerful than they are even when they’re being kicked around and starved.

Cats are more like Democrats. Live and let live, and enjoy some company sometimes on equal terms.
And they don’t put up with being abused like Republicans do.

September 26, 2005 @ 11:59 pm | Comment

I do not care if it is Tibetans, Chinese, Americans, Africans, whatever, if there are only 2,000 indian tigers left in world and people want their costumes trimmed with indian tiger fur then they should be shot for being the most selfish, dumb-ass stupid, a-holes on the planet.

Just thinking about it, as the people buying this shit are Tibetan, they have an extremely good chance of being shot if they live in the imperial colony of Tibet – certainly a better chance than 99% of the rest of the world’s population.

I’ve always found it hilarious that the Chinese always cry into their tea about western imperialism, and yet they are the biggest practicianers of imperialism the world has ever seen. Always have been.

You couldn’t make this shit up.

Down With Chinese Imperialism!
Down With the Tibetan Puppet Govt!

September 27, 2005 @ 1:02 am | Comment

(singing to tune of “George of the Jungle”):

“Chen, Chen, Chen of the Jungle,
Strong as he can be….
There are no more trees!
When he gets in a strait
He makes his escape
With the help of his friend:
An ape he ate!
Then away he’ll schlep
On an elephant cleft
Through his skull and makes dinner from what is left!
Chen, Chen, Chen of the Jungle,
Friend to Hu and Li,
There are no more trees!

September 27, 2005 @ 1:21 am | Comment

Has anybody noticed the minorities selling nasty looking shit around tourist areas in Shanghai and Beijing. Looks like animal skins, claws and antlers. some of it looks endangered, although not sure what it is. I’m always tempted to go over and shout at them, but then I remember they are victims of Han imperialism.

September 27, 2005 @ 11:26 am | Comment


the old lama regime is no less guilty

September 28, 2005 @ 3:35 pm | Comment

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