Your cashmere sweater is harming snow leopards.
A study released this week shows the growth in domestic cashmere goat herds across the Tibetan Plateau to Mongolia are threatening the snow leopard in this region.
Research by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)) and the Snow Leopard Trust (SLT) found the impact of goat herd growth include conflicts with pastoralists, domestic dog attacks on wildlife and retaliatory snow leopard killings when the rare cats kill goats. Many other wildlife species like wild yak, chiru, saiga, Bactrian camel, gazelles are also affected.
Professor Joel Berger said, “The consequences are dramatic and negative for iconic species that governments have signed legislation to protect, yet the wildlife is continually being squeezed into a no-win situation. Herders are doing what we would do – just trying to improve their livelihoods, and who can blame them?”
The WCS said “The purpose of the study is to raise awareness among western consumers about the origins of cashmere and its growing impact on wildlife. The authors suggest that the study should serve as the beginning of a dialog among the garment industry, cashmere herders, and conservationists to address and mitigate these impacts.”
“In the absence of commitment across global and local scales, the iconic wildlife of the world’s highest mountains and great steppes will cease to persist as they have for millennia. Rather than serving as symbols of success, these species will become victims of fashion,” said Peter Zahler, WCS Deputy Director for Asia Programs.
The WCS have already launched an initiative to help solve the problem. The initiative, the Responsible Ecosystems Sourcing Platform (RESP), is a public-private partnership with the goal of addressing sustainability issues during various fashion, cosmetic and jewelry industry supply chains – including cashmere.
“Cashmere production is a complicated human issue,” Charu Mishra from the Snow Leopard Trust told the BBC. “Understandably, indigenous herders are trying to improve their livelihoods, but the short-term economic gain is harming the local ecosystem.”
“By improving our understanding of the relationship between indigenous herders, local ecology and global markets, we can implement policies at the national and international level which are better designed to protect biodiversity while supporting the livelihoods of local communities,” he added.