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The BBC's Mike Wooldridge
"The Kashmir government had held out as long as it could"
 real 28k

Friday, 30 June, 2000, 13:10 GMT 14:10 UK
Kashmir to ban shahtoosh
So fine it can be drawn through a wedding ring
Shawls are so fine they can be drawn through a wedding ring
The Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir has said it will ban the trade in shahtoosh shawls, made from the hair of an endangered antelope.

The once highly-prized fashion item - said to have captivated Napolean's wife Josephine - has been a target of sustained campaigning by conservationists.

Shahtoosh shawls
Made from Chiru wool
Each shawl requires wool of 3-4 Chiru
Conservationists say 20,000 Chiru killed annually
India's has 70,000-80,000 Chiru
A rare Tibetan antelope, the Chiru, has been killed in large numbers for the wool that is used to make the shawls.

India says its current Chiru population is between 70,000 to 80,000.


Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah said the move was a result of international pressure on the continued trade in shahtoosh shawls.

The shawls have been produced in the state for centuries and are of such legendary softness that they can be passed through a ring.

The endangered Tibetan antelope
The endangered Tibetan antelope
Before the controversy erupted over their origin, they were favoured by the rich and famous.

In India, the shawls were priced between 30,000 rupees ($700) and 100,000 rupees ($1,600), and the international prices were even higher.

Conservationists say it takes the wool of three to four Chiru to make one shawl.

They also claim that some 20,000 Chiru are trapped and killed every year for their wool.

Following a high-profile campaign, an international ban on shahtoosh was imposed in 1995.

Traders' defence

But traders in Jammu and Kashmir maintain the Chiru sheds its wool on bushes or rocks at the end of the Tibetan winter.

I am being pushed to the wall.....I really have no idea what I will do

A shahtoosh trader
This wool, they say, is then collected and used for making the shawls.

A lot of Kashmiris depend on the shahtoosh trade and the ban will seriously affect the local economy.

"The ban has come as a jolt from the blue to all of us," Hamidullah, a member of the Shahtoosh Spinners, Weavers and Manufacturers Association, told AFP.

A trader said he has been "pushed to the wall" by the decision.

"I really have no idea what I will do," he said.

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