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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Karmapa appeals for wildlife conservation

July 2, 2009

Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Wasfia Nazreen by email

Dharamsala: June 29th: What better way to start the week than attending a
talk by His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa on the preservation of
wildlife! That was how the day started for upper TCV students here on
Monday, June 29th- an awareness event co-organized by Wildlife Trust of
India (WTI) and Care for the Wild International (CWI).

"Animals are not our enemies. We are all interdependent; every animal has a
role to play in the ecology by being a part of the food chain. If you remove
one layer, the entire chain is affected. Even while talking in the interest
of human beings, by saving wildlife, you are ultimately helping yourself,"
said the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje, who just celebrated his 24th
birthday on Friday.

Dr Barbara Maas, Chief Executive of CWI, who was supposed to be at the event
but at the last moment had to cancel due to physical illness, said through a
pre-recorded message, "One of the key principles of Buddhism is compassion
towards all sentient beings. Yet, the life of each and every animal killed
for its skin and body parts ends in an act of violence. Cumulatively, this
violence has consequences not only for the fate of individuals but for that
of whole species. The list of animal species threatened with extinctions as
a result of human behaviour grows longer every year. It currently stands at
over 7,200. If our own species continues to extinguish others, it will spell
disaster for us too, because we are part of nature and cannot survive in

The event was a part of the Tibetan Conservation Awareness Campaign (TCAC),
a WTI-CWI project aimed at spreading conservation awareness among Tibetans.
The campaign was launched by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on April 6, 2005 to
address the involvement of Tibetans in wildlife crimes and the use of
wildlife articles in Tibetan medicines and traditional dresses.

The importance of this campaign has been highlighted by the recent arrest of
four alleged Tibetan wildlife traders in eastern Nepal late last week. About
23 deer traps and parts of Impeyan pheasant (Lophophorus impejanus) - the
national bird of Nepal listed in Appendix I of CITES (Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species), were among the articles
reportedly seized from their possession.

In 2006, a conservation message by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama had
generated tremendous emotional response, culminating in several instances of
wild animal skin burning by Tibetans across Tibet as well as in Dharamsala.
The skin burning episodes- an indication of Tibetans shunning use of wild
animal articles, continued sporadically, with latest incidents reported as
recent as April this year.

School children listen to talks on Wildlife conservation in Dharamsala,
India, on Monday June 29, 2009 (Photo by Wasfia Nazreen for
School children listen to talks on Wildlife conservation in Dharamsala,
India, on Monday June 29, 2009 (Photo by Wasfia Nazreen for
Vouching farther support to the Dalai Lama's previous appeal, the Karmapa
added: "From the Buddhist viewpoint, we say every sentient being is a mother
sentient being. We believe in bringing no harm to others including animals,
but the ground reality is that this is being neglected. Some may believe
that the environment is so huge that it cannot be affected by the action of
one person. However, individuals can make lots of differences; the kind of
difference, whether positive or negative, depends on the character and
belief of humans."

The organizers of the event feel that Tibetan leaders wield tremendous
amount of influence on Tibetan people, therefore, they are approaching
leaders of various Tibetan sects for their blessings and support on the
campaign to conserve wildlife, as stated by Vice Chairman of WTI, Mr Ashok

Over the years, TCAC field officers of Tibetan origin have visited urban
areas as well as remote rural areas to spread the message of His Holiness
the Dalai Lama and to spread conservation awareness among Tibetans. Till
date, the TCAC campaign has reached 53 Tibetan settlements, 68 schools and
106 monasteries across India, in addition to a few in Nepal.

"We have observed a visible increase in awareness levels within the Tibetan
community, but obviously our work is far from complete (as proven by the
arrest last week in Nepal). The words of His Holiness the Karmapa will help
fortify our campaign and benefit the cause by leaving a lingering message in
the minds of young Tibetans and adults alike," Kumar added.

The two-hour programme concluded with the phenomenal documentary "A shawl to
die for" which traces the history of Shahtoosh weaving in Kashmir, India to
its links to the Tibetan antelope Chiru found on the Chang Tang plateau of
Tibet. In the past Chirus were killed so Shahtoosh, it's fleece, can be
extracted to make the thousands of dollars worth shawls. The international
ban on Shahtoosh was critical for the survival of the endangered Chiru,
however, it gave birth to a new disaster- for the thousands of traditional
Shahtoosh workers in Kashmir who are now failing to obtain a livelihood.
While the film explores the struggle of conservation vs livelihood, it also
documents interventions brought in by a community project initiated by
Wildlife Trust of India and International Fund for Animal Welfare, supported
by the British High Commission. Even though the solutions implemented by
this project have been steadily implemented, the challenge now remains to
ensure and measure its growth and success.

Ultimately, it very much depends on the commitment and awareness of the
Tibetan community in general to finally and for good stop the smuggling of
Shahtoosh. The documentary educates on promoting other alternatives for
fashion such as the use of Pashmina shawls.
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