SONAM DHARGYE AND DAKPA DORJEE'S BIOGRAPHY
In 1992, when Jeesang Sonam Dhargye realised that the so-called Chinese migrant gold-diggers in the Northern Plains of Tibet were opting for something other than gold, he became suspicious. As the Deputy Secretary of the Dritoe County, Yushu, Qinghai Province, he had toured the vast Changthang area of A-Chen Khunu Range (Kekexili) to find thousands of skinned corpses of the Tsoe (Tibetan Antelope). Horrified, Sonam Dhargye vowed to fight the poachers in order to protect the endangered Tibetan antelope.
In July 1992, he set up a special team called the Wild Yak Brigade to protect the natural resources of the Kekexili region. Within a year, he had conducted 12 patrols of Kekexili and captured poachers on eight occasions. On January 18, 1994, he came across 18 poachers carrying over 2,000 Tibetan antelope skins. A gun battle ensued, and Sonam Dhargye was killed in action. He was only 4O at the time of his death.
A friend of Sonam later said, “Every time Sonam Dhargye went into Kekexili, he went in prepared to die. protection. He had written innumerable appeals, but none were heard — like stones falling into the ocean. So, he had no choice but to try to do it on his own.”
In continuance of Sonam’s mission, his brother-in-law Dakpa Dorjee led the Wild Yak Brigade. Like their founder, the Wild Yak Brigade toiled for days and months in the vast northern plain, combating snowstorm, rainstorm, hailstorm, quicksand, flood, hunger, thirst and, the worst of all, poachers, to protect the Tsoe. In a span of four years, the team under Dakpa Dorjee arrested 250 suspected poachers and confiscated 60 guns, over 10,000 rounds of ammunition, 57 motor vehicles and 3,717 skins and pelts of various animals.
On November 8, 1998, Dakpa Dorjee was found dead from a gunshot wound at his home in Yushu. He was 47. Although the death was plotted by poachers, it was dismissed as a suicide case by the authorities.
Unfortunately, after the death of Sonam and Dakpa, the Wild Yak Brigade was disbanded and all efforts by their followers and remaining members to revive the patrol have proved unsuccessful.
If you wish to support the revival of the Wild Yak Brigade, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Facts about the Tibetan Antelope
The Tibetan antelope (Tsoe, Chiru, Pantholops hodgsonii) inhabits the remote regions of Tibet and East Turkistan. Small populations are also found in parts of Ladakh in India. A century ago, more than one million antelopes roamed the high plateau of Tibet. Today, there are about 50,000. Some scientists estimate that poachers kill 20,000 antelopes every year.
The Tibetan antelopes are killed solely for their pelts. Three to five individuals are killed to get wool to weave one shahtoosh shawl (Shahtoosh is Persian for “the king of wool”). A single shahtoosh can cost more than US $ 15,000.
The wool of the Tibetan antelope is smuggled from Tibet through Nepal and Ladakh into Kashmir, where it is woven into shahtoosh shawls. They are then sold in India and internationally.
The Tibetan antelope is protected under Appendix I of the United Nations’ Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which prohibits any international trade in its products. It is also protected under wildlife protection laws in China and India, the range countries of this species. Despite these legal safeguards, the Tibetan antelope is being driven to extinction.
At the current rate of slaughter, the species will become extinct in this very generation. Please say no to Shatoosh and Help Revive the Wild Yak Brigade!
Tesi Environmental Awareness Movement