Shahtoosh scarves woven from the precious chiru wool can sell on the black market for as much as $15,000 each. Join Ultimate Explorer on a dangerous expedition and covert sting operation for a revealing look at what’s being done to help prevent a fashion statement from costing the world another lost species
msnbc.com
updated 3/4/2004 3:41:00 PM ET 2004-03-04T20:41:00

National Geographic Ultimate Explorer host Lisa Ling investigates the illicit trade fueling the slaughter of the endangered Tibetan antelope, known as chiru, and four of the world’s top explorers trek across Tibet’s rugged high plateau in search of the animal’s elusive birthing grounds.

National Geographic Ultimate Explorer host Lisa Ling is taking on her first undercover operation to expose the illegal trade fueling the slaughter of chiru, or Tibetan antelope. These medium-sized animals survive at elevations exceeding 17,000 feet, but the fine, warm wool that helps them withstand the Tibetan plateau’s frigid conditions is also leading to their downfall. Illegal shahtoosh scarves woven from this precious wool sell on the black market for as much as $15,000 each. Tempting profits like these have driven poachers to slaughter the highly endangered animals at a rate approaching 20,000 a year. Once numbering in the millions, the chiru may now number as few as 75,000.

Ultimate Explorer joins four of the world’s top adventurers, led by accomplished climber and explorer Rick Ridgeway, who are determined to help save these animals. For 30 days, the team uses high-tech rickshaws to haul over 1,000 pounds of food and gear across almost 300 miles of Tibet’s rugged wilderness. The team has an important goal: to find one of the remote calving grounds of the chiru and document its location. It is their hope that this evidence will convince the Chinese government to preserve the tract of land where the female chiru return each year to give birth to their young.

In her pursuit, Ling ventures to New Delhi - the distribution center for much of the underground traffic of shahtoosh. Working with the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), Ling penetrates the black market and obtains undercover footage illegal shawls being sold while she poses as an interested buyer. Ultimately two men are arrested in a bust carried out by WTI and the India Central Bureau of Investigation, equivalent to the FBI.

Join Ultimate Explorer on a dangerous expedition and covert sting operation for a revealing look at what’s being done to help prevent a fashion statement from costing the world another lost species.

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