Tibetans living in exile in India and Nepal have increasingly become involved in the illegal wildlife trafficking of endangered species such as Himalayan tigers, leopards, snow leopards, rhinos, otters and bears.

Last year, Tibetan enforcement officers intercepted 32 tiger, 579 leopard and 664 otter skins in just one single shipment.

As well as the skins of tigers and leopards, otter pelts and animal bones, live animals are also smuggled from India to Nepal and into Tibet, where they are sent to China and elsewhere to supply thriving food and medicine markets.

But exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, has now launched an awareness drive in collaboration with two conservation charities Care for the Wild International (CWI) and the Wildlife Trust of India, running throughout the Himalayan region to make Tibetans aware of the importance of protecting these endangered animals.

“Through ignorance, greed and lack of respect for the earth, the world’s growing human population has already rendered many of the earth’s natural resources incapable of sustaining Nature’s rich diversity,” the Dalai Lama warned.

“Today more than ever before, life must be characterised by a sense of universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life.”

The campaign will see leaflets being distributed amongst the Tibetan population in India and Nepal, as well as documentary videos being shown at Tibetan schools and refugee camps in the region.

Anti-poaching messages will also be broadcast on local television and radio stations.

Chief executive of CWI, Barbara Maas said that the illegal trading problem was no longer a small-scale problem, and that those involved needed to realise that some animal species would soon become extinct if this trading did not stop.

“Wild animals cannot protect themselves against our violent interference, but whether we exploit their defencelessness is our choice,” Ms Maas stated.

“It is my sincere hope that this work will save and improve many lives, which lie in the hands of the Tibetan people who are known around the world for their commitment to non-violence and compassion.”

By Jane Kettle

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