Correspondence| Volume 59, 102713, July 2022

Detection of fraudulent in contraband Shahtoosh trade: Unfair deal in illicit wildlife market

      Hair from the Tibetan antelope (Pantholops hogdsonii), or Chiru, is used to create one of the world's finest wool, hence termed 'Shahtoosh'. Chiru is a protected species and is illegally hunted for the mass-scale collection of its wool. Another fine quality wool hair derived from Pashmina goat (Capra hircus) is farmed in and around Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir’s Union Territories in India. Shahtoosh has been considered a status symbol that has led to high global demand, leading to the severe depletion of Chiru in the wild. We examined the guard and wool hairs from the confiscated Shahtoosh shawl to identify its origin. We used a combination of microscopic and molecular techniques to determine the source of the guard hair collected from five shawls. The microscopic test confirmed the presence of Chiru’s guard hair in every shawl. Molecular test using DNA sequencing of a partial fragment of mitochondrial DNA cytochrome b (cyt b) gene from these guard hair positive shahtoosh shawls confirmed fibers of Chiru from only two samples. Remaining three guard hair positive shahtoosh shawls failed in DNA extraction. Hence, molecular testing yielded only a 2/5 success rate, but morphological features detected the fiber of prohibited species from 100% of articles.


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