Firm fined for illegal Shahtoosh shawls

A clothing company was fined £1,500 yesterday in the first successful prosecution in Britain for selling illegal shahtoosh shawls.

Magistrates at Horseferry Road, central London, were told 138 of the shawls, made from the wool of an endangered Tibetan antelope, were seized in a raid on The Renaissance Corporation in Mayfair in 1997. The haul had a retail value of £353,000; it is estimated at least 1,000 animals were killed to make them, the Metropolitan Police said.

The company was fined £1,500 and ordered to forfeit the shawls after pleading guilty to breaching the Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1985.

The shawls, once wedding gifts in India, are a desirable fashion item, costing thousands of pounds. The chiru, the source of the wool, is an endangered species, covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Stewart Chapman, international conservation officer of the Worldwide Fund for Nature Conservation, said: "A seizure of this kind represents the death of ... 1,000 animals, a devastating blow to a species which enjoys the same level of protection as the giant panda."

Demand from the Western fashion industry has encouraged poaching of the remaining 70,000 chiru.

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