Sunday, November 07, 2004

Kekexili: the grim reality of conservation

just watched the Chinese film, Kekexili, on DVD. This is a very stark and at the same time stunning film about the mountain patrol on the Tibetan plateau that battles against the natural elements and the poachers that gun down Tibetan antelope. Unlike celebrities promoting conservation of endangered species on TV, this film showed the grim existence and tough choices by both sides: the patrol and poachers. It's shoot to kill either way.

The film is based on the true story of the mountain patrol. Short on money, equipment, guns and manpower, the patrol lost two captains who were killed by poachers. The filming process was just tough: one member of the crew was killed in a vehicle accident. The stunning and harsh natural landscape of the Tibetan plateau is both beautiful and threatening at the same time. The life and death struggle between the patrol and poachers is the other theme.

The trade is fueled by the craze for Shatoosh by rich tai-tais in Paris, London or Milan. Each Shatoosh shawl costs more than USD10,000 and takes up to 3-5 dead antelope that were killed for their soft and luxurious undercoat. Each year, up to 10,000 antelope are shot in the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau. Their population had numbered about a million in the beginning of the 20th century, now estimates range from 100,000 to 70,000.


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