23 Jul 2013:
Booming Cashmere Market
Is Threatening Snow Leopards, Study Says
A surging global market for cashmere is pushing several iconic species, including the snow leopard and wild yak, toward the margins of survival in remote regions where wool-producing goats are raised,
A snow leopard in Central Asia
according to a new study. Demand for the luxurious wool, which has spurred a multibillion-dollar industry, has encouraged herders in Asia to drastically increase their livestock, which are devouring a growing share of the grass that had previously been eaten by antelope, wild asses, and their predators. In an analysis conducted in Mongolia, India, and China’s Tibetan Plateau, a team of researchers concluded that 95 percent of forage is now consumed by domestic animals, leaving just 5 percent for wild species, the Guardian reports
. In addition, the researchers noted a rise in the killing of leopards and wolves by herders following predator attacks on livestock, as well as the transfer of disease from livestock to wild animals. Other species being affected include the Przewalski horse, the Bactrian camel, and the saiga antelope. “Rather than serving as symbols of success, these species will become victims of fashion,” the researchers write in the journal Conservation Biology
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