Eight activists detained in relation to animal skin burning in Ngaba released
Tibet Watch has received reports that the eight activists instrumental in the burning of animal skins outside Kirti Monastery in Ngaba (Sichuan), have been released. The eight had reportedly been held for 15 days following a large-scale initiative to collect and destroy skins outside Ngaba's Kirti monastery on 9 February 2006. Four of the eight arrested have been identified; they were a teacher called Lobsang Dawa, Budha, Tsukho and an un-named person identified as the son of Sanggye Choekhor. Two of those arrested are believed to have been government employees.
Video footage showing the 9 February skin-burning in Ngaba reached the outside world last month, and showed several thousand visitors to the traditional 'Monlam' prayer festival gathering near the renowned Kirti Monastery collecting and burning animal skins. Similar activities were reported from various communities in North-eastern Tibet and Tibet's capital Lhasa, after an initial campaign in Rebgong.
The collection and destruction of skins was a response to a strong appeal made by the Dalai Lama during the Kalachakra initiation in south India in January. Many of the pelts, such as of those of tigers, leopards and otters, find their way into Tibet via illegal trade routes originating from India where the animals are poached, and are used in the production of Tibetan garments. Tens of thousands of Tibetans, including many from Tibet, gathered in Amaravati for the Kalachakra initiaion and heard the Dalai Lama make his powerful appeal. Having joined hands with Care for the Wild International and the Wildlife Trust of India earlier last year, Tibet's spiritual leader called upon Tibetans inside and outside Tibet to stop the use, selling and wearing of endangered animal skins.
Viewers of Tibetan television in the Tibet Autonomous Region and Qinghai have observed that this year's losar (Tibetan New Year) showed a marked decrease in the numbers of people wearing animal skins, particularly amongst the studio audiences.
The latest report of a major skin burning event has been reported from Dzoige Shen in Ngaba Prefecture, Amdo. In Thankor township on 11 February, local people reportedly collected and burnt pelts at Sogtsang Monastery after Sogtsang Trulku, the highest Lama of the monastery mentioned the issue during his teachings to mark the end of the Monlam prayer festival on 10 February. The following morning, local people collected skins of otter, fox and leopard and set them alight using petrol and wood. Animal pelts with a value of just under 1 million Yuan were destroyed according to reports from the area. Police gathered, as is normal during large religious festivals, but did not intervene.