Tibetan Conservation – Wildlife Awareness Campaign

Care for the Wild teamed up with the offices of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, in 2005, to launch a campaign to help reduce the Illegal trade in wildlife, responsible for decimating several endangered Himalayan species.

The Situation

The Indian subcontinent’s fauna presents an irresistible lure for corrupt wildlife traders. Their illegal activities devastate populations of endangered Himalayan and sub-Himalayan wildlife including tigers, leopards, snow leopards, rhinos, otters and bears. A study conducted by the Wildlife Trust of India found that, since at least the mid-1980s, Tibetans living in exile in India and Nepal have become increasingly involved in the region’s wildlife trade.

Tiger skins and bones, otter pelts, and even live animals are smuggled from India to Nepal and into the Tibetan Autonomous Region, from where they are sent to China and elsewhere. Tibet itself is also a significant market for tiger and leopard skins, which are used on traditional robes, called ‘chubas’.

Effective enforcement is essential to stem this trade. But, to be truly successful, trade must also be stopped at the source. This can be achieved by changing mind-sets and developing alternative livelihoods for those involved.

What Did Care for the Wild Do?

Working with our project partners, the Wildlife Trust of India, Care for the Wild, developed the ‘Tibetan conservation awareness campaign’ (TCAC) to enhance awareness about the damaging effects of wildlife trade in Himalayan communities.

Tibetan leaders wield tremendous influence over Tibetan people. So, we approached leaders of various Tibetan sects for their blessings and support for our campaign to help conserve wildlife.

We were extremely honoured to have, His Holiness the Dali Lama, speak out on several occasions to support our campaign. His Holiness spoke to the Tibetans, from a Buddhist perspective, about importance of nature conservation and wild species protection.

To spread the messages of His Holiness, and other religious leaders, as far into the Tibetan community as possible, our field officers visited urban centres and remote rural areas. We disseminated of materials that could be passed to isolated Tibetans living in exile, screened videos of speeches and carried out education programmes.

Care for the Wild also funded a book which was sent to Tibetan schools, to ensure that from an early age people learnt about the need to conserve wildlife, the impacts of trade, and the need for compassion towards all sentient beings, including animals.

What Happened as a Result of the Campaign?

His Holiness’ words generated a tremendous response from the Tibetan people, culminating in many instances of wild animal skin burnings across Tibet. This was truly an extraordinary gesture, with some of the destroyed garments costing as much as two years’ wages for the average Tibetan.

Our Tibetan field officers reported a noticeable change in attitudes towards wildlife conservation in the communities in which they were working. This was confirmed by the decreased use of real furs on traditional Tibetan garments.

Since the launch of the TCAC, tailored awareness campaigns have been conducted in 53 Tibetan settlements, 68 schools and 106 monasteries across India.