The Chiru or Tibetan Antelope is an endangered animal found in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir India. This Antelope is known for the fine hair of its underbelly and chest, which is woven into the softest of woolen shawls. The wool is known as Shahtoosh or King of Wools and is one-fifth the thickness of human hair. The wool is so fine that a full-sized shawl can pass through a ring worn on ones finger. The warmth, softness and luxurious feel of Shahtoosh, has made Shahtoosh shawls a worldwide fashion must-have. This has led to the decimation of the Chiru in Tibet because several Chiru are killed to harvest the wool from their underbellies from which these shawls are woven. In India the Chiru is protected and trade in Shahtoosh is banned. The Chiru is also protected in China.
Zoological name: Pantholops hodgsonii
Range: The Chiru or Tibetan Antelope can be seen in Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir on wildlife tours with Kashmir Tourism. The Chiru or Tibetan Antelope live on the Ladakh Plateau and on high altitude mountain slopes of Jammu and Kashmir. They are found at altitudes of over 3,700 meters. Chiru are found in larger numbers in Tibet.
Appearance and behavior: The Chiru or Tibetan Antelope is a medium sized deer. It has a dense coat, which protects it during the severe Himalayan winter. The wool on the back and shoulders is light brown while the fine wool on the chest and underbelly is cream or white. The face and legs are dark brown or black. Male Chiru have black horns, which extend for 50-70 cm. Chiru or Tibetan Antelope live in small herds of 10-15 individuals led by a large male antelope. Male Chiru fight for control of the herd and can seriously hurt each other with their sharp horns.
Snow Leopards, Himalayan Black Bears, Wolves, and poachers prey upon Chiru. They are therefore quick to flee at the first sign of danger. Chiru usually feed in the twilight hours of morning and evening. Chiru have adapted to the harsh Himalayan weather. They dig shallow troughs in which they rest. This protects them from the icy wind and the sight of predators. Chiru fed on grasses and plants found on the Tibetan and Ladakh plateaus.
Population: The Chiru or Tibetan Antelope is an endangered species. The total number of Chiru worldwide is estimated to be around 60-75,000.