Some of the planet's rarest large mammals may become "victims of fashion" as the cashmere trade threatens ecosystems, U.S. conservationists say.
Expanding goat herds meant to increase profits for the cashmere trade in Western markets could see wildlife icons from the Tibetan Plateau to Mongolia suffer, the Wildlife Conservation Society reported Wednesday.
Species at risk include the snow leopard, wild yak, chiru, saiga, Bactrian camel, gazelles, and other already endangered species of remote Central Asia, the society said in a release.
Goats from this region produce high-quality fibers that, when processed into cashmere, are highly sought by western consumers.
The growth in goat herds is bringing increasing conflicts with pastoralists, predation by dogs on wildlife, retaliatory killing of snow leopards preying on goats and displacement of wildlife away from critical food habitats, experts said.
A study has used date from fieldwork in India, western China, and Mongolia and builds upon economic data including herder profits, changes in livestock numbers, and the relative abundance of wildlife, researchers 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," said lead study author Joel Berger, a biologist for the society and professor at University of Montana. More....