The continued growth of the global cashmere garment industry is placing a number of Central Asian mammals, like snow leopards, wild yaks, Tibetan antelope and gazelles, in danger, reports a recent study.
The study entitled “Globalization of the Cashmere Market and the Decline of Large Mammals in Central Asia,” was published in the scientific journal Conservation Biology and was run by researchers from the University of Montana (U.S.A.) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (U.S.A.), the Wildlife Conservation Society (Mongolia), the Snow Leopard Trust (U.S.A.), and the Nature Conservation Foundation (India), according to The Global Fool.
The study reveals that an expansion of pastureland for goats used in the cashmere industry is the main cause of the decline in Central Asian wild animal populations. Many of these animals native to China’s Tibetan plateau, Mongolia and India are already endangered.
Over the last decades, the cashmere industry has become a multi-billion dollar industry and in order to support this large demand, local herders across Central Asia have increased the number of livestock they keep. In 1990, Mongolia alone had around five million heads of livestock which grew to nearly 14 million in 2010, reports the Snow Leopard Trust.
As a result, these domestic goats have been competing with wild animals for their main food sources. Moreover, Central Asian animals are suffering from a reduction in their habitat space and displacement. They are even put at risk of being killed or injured by domestic dogs that accompany herders.
“Cashmere production is a complicated human issue. Understandably, indigenous herders are trying to improve their livelihoods, but the short-term economic gain is harming the local ecosystem,” said Charu Mishra, the Snow Leopard Trust’s Science and Conservation Director and a co-author of the study.
The overall purpose of the study is to raise awareness about the link between the western cashmere industry and the impact on wildlife and ecosystems. The authors of the study hope that it will serve to propel dialogue between the industry, cashmere herders and conservation groups. The authors also stress that blaming the herders is counterproductive and that it would be much more fruitful to involve Western consumers, the garment industry and local communities in conservation efforts.
“I care about the snow leopard but I also genuinely care about those people and their livelihoods. The solution is about empowering them,” said Mishra.
According to Science Daily, the World Conservation Society has already started to tackle this issue by working with the Responsible Ecosystems Sourcing Platform (RESP), a public-private partnership initiative that aims to address sustainability issues from the beginning to the end of supply chains.
A few ways you can help reduce the negative impact on Central Asian mammals yourself are by choosing garments that are sourced from solely plant-based materials and encouraging your family, friends and local stores to do the same. You can also donate to the Snow Leopard Trust and the World Conservation Society to support their conservation efforts and their fight to protect Central Asian animals.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons