Tibetan Prayer Vigil to End Consumption of Endangered Species Products

Tesi Environmental Awareness Movement (TEAM), March 17, 2006

Dharamsala, India -- A special Prayer Vigil led by Buddhist nuns from Shugseb Nunnery will be held today in McLoed Ganj, Dharamsala, for all the deceased wildlife whose lives were lost to satisfy Tibetan demand for their skins and other body parts.

With blessings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, all the donated illegal pelts and other endangered animal products along with the signatures of hundreds of Tibetans who have vowed never to use endangered pelts ever again will be placed inside a special Stupa, a Buddhist religious monument.

These will be followed by a candlelight vigil in the evening in support of and in solidarity with the recent burning of animal skins in various parts of Tibet. The Prayer Vigil to end Tibetan use of endangered species products is being organised by a local environmental NGO, Tesi Environmental Awareness Movement (TEAM).

Since the end of the January 2006 Kalachakra Initiation in Amaravati, where His Holiness the Dalai Lama made a strong appeal to his people not to utilise endangered species products, there have been sudden eruptions of environmental activism among Tibetans both inside and outside Tibet, most notably symbolized by the voluntary burning of thousands of animal pelts. In the last week, at least seven mass burnings have been reported in Tibetan areas of Gansu Province with literally truckloads of pelts being burnt.

The Prayer Vigil will be used as a platform to appeal to all individual Tibetans and social groups to help further educate their families and community members about the bloody and tragic plight of the animals behind the pelts that adorn their dresses, and how our actions are contributing to the extinction of animal species and the loss of biodiversity.

Ms. Tsering Yangkey, TEAM Executive Director said, "The Prayer Vigil draws much of its energy and inspiration from the recent environmental campaigns inside Tibet. We urgently appeal to all Tibetans, media, social groups and leaders not to turn this wonderful environmental awakening into a political issue. The words of His Holiness the Dalai Lama have inspired many Tibetans towards a new understanding and care for biological diversity. This truly environmental awakening is a historical event which TEAM hopes will set a precedent for greater dedication from communities and authorities all over the world to a stricter protection of endangered species."

Mr. Ugyen Tsephel, a TEAM researcher said, ?We are specifically concerned about news reports that certain of the environmental activists who started the burning of pelts campaigns in Tibet were arrested. While the arrested activists have now been released, people planning to burn pelts have recently received threats from the local authorities. We request the Government of China to immediately take action to prevent such events from reoccurring, and to take advantage of the current Tibetan enthusiasm for wildlife conservation to further its commitments under the 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna and the 1992 Biodiversity Convention.?

TEAM demands that the governments of India and China adopt stronger measures against poachers and smugglers to save precious animals such as the Tibetan Antelope (Pantholops hodgsoni) and the Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris) from extinction. Both these species are listed under ?threatened with extinction? or Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.

Commercial and unlicensed trade in specimens of these animal species is thus strictly prohibited under International law. Currently, national borders of India, Tibet, Nepal and China remain porous to a flourishing illegal trade threatening the survival of many endangered animal species.

TEAM is a non-profit Tibetan environmental organisation established with a mission to revive the ecological consciousness of the Tibetan people. One of its core aims is to educate Tibetans about the plight of endangered species and to put an end to the Tibetan people?s use of endangered species products.

Since the commencement of its endangered species endeavors in March 2005, TEAM has conducted a series of wildlife conservation campaigns including a month-long training for 30 Tibetan students and public outreach work during the 2006 Amaravati Kalachakra religious gathering. More recently, TEAM members have been engaged in wildlife awareness raising campaigns in the Tibetan settlements of Tashi Jong, Dege, Nangchen, Suja TCV School, Bir CST School and Bir Tibetan Society in Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh Sonamling Settlement in Jammu and Kashmir and the Bylakuppe Settlements in Karnataka.
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