WTI[Wednesday, March 21, 2007 21:00]
New Delhi, March 21 - Tibetan people are gradually switching over to exquisite brocade dresses in place of animal skin Chubas - widely used in festivals and ceremonies in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, experts monitoring the illegal skin trade said.
In a major change from the past, people wore brocades in place of Chubas during the "Losar" celebrations (Tibetan New Year) in February in Lhasa.
At these festivals, in the past, Tibetans used ceremonial dresses stitched with tiger, leopard and otter skins.
People also wore them at popular "horse race" events organized during Losar, however this year it was not in sight.
"This was one of the major achievements following the Tibetan Conservation Awareness Campaign – where people declined to wear them." Pasang Lhamu of Wildlife Trust of India said.
The campaign was launched by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in April in 2005 in conjunction with WTI and the Care for the Wild International.
"Brocade dresses are also called as "Gochein" in Tibetan language and are increasingly becoming popular among Tibetans in China," Ashok Kumar, Vice Chairman of WTI said.
"It also opened up a huge export market in India, since brocades are mostly made in Varanasi in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh."
Early last year, at the height of the protest against animal skins being used in traditional Tibetan dresses – thousands of Tibetans in Rebgong, Amdo and elsewhere burnt truck-loads of animal skins including Chubas, however, officials in Lhasa stopped people from burning them.
The burning was considered a new beginning by Tibetans, which started in response to His Holiness' appeal to give up the use of animal products.
This year, prior to the Losar festivities, some Tibetans symbolically burnt tiger, leopard and otter skins on a bridge in Lhasa - marking one year of an attempted burning which was stopped by local authorities.
"Though the burning amounted to a financial loss, Tibetans are seeing it as a financial gain since they are no longer required to buy expensive tiger and leopard skin Chubas for weddings and other functions." Kumar said.
About 50 Tibetan settlements across India have been identified to create awareness for conservation among the Tibetans as part of the WTI and Care for the Wild International's year-old campaign.