Chinese police have arrested a suspect who, among a group of 18 armed poachers, allegedly shot dead an official trying to protect near-extinct Tibetan antelopes in a remote northwestern grassland plateau 17 years ago, police said Tuesday.
The suspect, surnamed Mu, was arrested in the city of Golmud, Qinghai province, on Sunday night after six others surrendered themselves to police for the 1994 murder of Sonam Dargye.
Sonam Dargye was the deputy head of the Zhidoi county government responsible for organizing anti-poaching efforts. He was killed during one of his frequent patrols of the sparsely-populated Hoh Xil grassland on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau when he confronted 18 poachers in January 1994.
Sonam Dargye killed one of the two lead poachers in the exchange of fire. The other was executed by the court. Police are still searching for the last four members of the group, officials said.
The story of Sonam Dargye became widely known following the release of the award-winning feature film "Mountain Patrol" by Chinese director Lu Chuan in 2003.
The endangered Tibetan antelope, which is under first-class state protection in China, largely inhabits northwest China's Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Pregnant Tibetan antelopes migrate to Hoh Xil every June and July to give birth.
Poachers hunt the animals for their hides, as they can be sold and made into shahtoosh shawls, a luxury item that requires three to five Tibetan antelope skins to make just one shawl.
Since 1979, the Tibetan antelope has been recognized as an endangered species and protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. The Tibetan antelope was selected as one of the five mascots of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.