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Snow leopards and other wild animals from the mountains and steppes across the Tibetan plateau, Mongolia and West India are struggling to survive because of a surge in cashmere production. The grass and other forage that once sustained antelope on which animals like leopards and wolves prey is being gobbled up by the millions of goats that are raised each year to produce the soft silky wool that is coveted by fashionistas across the globe.

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“In the absence of commitment across global and local scales, this iconic wildlife will cease to persist as they have for millennia, researchers reported in the journal Conservation Biology, according to The Guardian. “Rather than serving as symbols of success, these species will become victims of fashion.”

The researchers found that 95 percent of the limited forage in the region is consumed by goats, sheep and other livestock, leaving just five percent for Tibetan antelopes, Bactrian camels and other wild animals. But that’s not the only threat to wild populations.

Farmers will kill predators in retaliation for stolen livestock, or disease will be transferred from livestock to wild species. But conservationists don’t fault herders for this accidental, unintended imbalance since they are eeking out an important living for themselves.

Instead, programs are being established to help them protect their livestock from wild animals, and incentives are offered to those who refrain from retaliatory killings.

Via The Guardian