Illegal trafficking of shahtoosh wool shawls on the rise

Bern, 28.01.2020 - The seizure of 69 shahtoosh wool shawls in December and January shows that the illegal trafficking of “shawls of shame” is as widespread as ever. To produce these 69 shawls, around 300 Tibetan antelopes were killed, because it takes the wool of three to five antelopes to make each shawl. As these antelopes are at risk of extinction, trade in Tibetan wool shawls is strictly prohibited. Shahtoosh wool from Tibetan antelopes is considered to be the finest in the world.

Since 2013, the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) has been conducting tighter checks in collaboration with the Federal Customs Administration (FCA). As a result, large numbers of shawls are seized in Switzerland every year. To combat this illegal trade effectively and help safeguard this endangered and thus strictly protected species, it is vital to encourage international collaboration and raise awareness among potential buyers.

Several large seizures over the holidays

Over the holiday season, the FCA seized a total of 69 shahtoosh wool shawls, imports of which are prohibited, at various locations. At Belp airport, border guards discovered 11 of these expensive shawls in a traveller’s luggage while, near Castasegna, one woman tried to import as many as 15. FCA staff confiscated several shawls from various travellers at Geneva airport. All of these shawls were confiscated by the FSVO.

Information remains the best prevention

Illegal importation of a shahtoosh wool shawl is punishable by a fine under the Federal Act on the Trade in Protected Animal and Plant Species (FA-CITES). The number of shawls seized demonstrates the need to continue conducting checks and raising awareness among potential customers: buyers willing to pay large sums for this wool, considered to be the world’s most precious, softest and warmest, should know that each shawl requires the illegal killing of three to five Tibetan antelopes and that purchasing these shawls is strictly prohibited.

Need for international collaboration

The number of shawls seized in Switzerland in recent years is only the tip of the iceberg of this illegal international trade. To combat this scourge effectively, strategic international collaboration is crucial to allow networking of specific knowledge and cooperation with the police. It is also a condition for providing effective support to relevant countries in the policing, customs and judicial sectors.

Address for enquiries

Federal Food Safety and
Veterinary Office (FSVO)
Media Unit
Tel. +41 58 463 78 98


Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office