Four nature reserves, covering over 200,000 square miles in western China, have joined forces to protect endangered Tibetan antelopes through anti-poaching operations. The initiatives are expected to last three months and become an annual event. Joint patrols will monitor the vast and inhospitable area to deter poachers, who covet the animals' fine wool—known as “shahtoosh”—as material for shawls. A single shawl requires three to five antelope hides. These reserves first gained protection in the mid-1990s; anti-poaching efforts thus far have successfully intercepted 17,000 illicit antelope hides, apprehended almost 3,000 hunters, and confiscated more than 300 guns.
The new joint effort will bring increased protection to the estimated 120,000 antelopes believed to exist within the parks' boundaries—a doubling of numbers in the past two decades but nowhere near the estimated millions once believed to roam the region's high plateaus.