Native sheep population in Phobjikha halved

Greenstory

Despite the government’s effort to preserve the native sheep in Phobjikha, Wangduephodrang the number of sheep has halved compared to 2013.

In 2013, there were 1,500 sheep reported in Phobjikha. Currently, the number has dropped to 700. The native sheep breed is Jakar Type and found only in Bumthang, Trongsa and Phobjikha.

Feral dogs attacking sheep, sheep rearing not being a lucrative business, lack of Tsamdro (pastureland) and only elderly people rearing sheep are hurdles to the preservation of the native sheep in the gewog.

Chairperson of the Samdrup Phuentshog Lug Detshen, Passang Tobgay said the villagers want to conserve the sheep but there are monthly incidences of eight to nine lamb attacks by the feral dogs that demoralize the farmers to take up conservation efforts.

Additionally, he said the dog attacks are rampant during the time of school breaks due to lack of feeding and a member of family have to guard the sheep every day.

There are about 60 to 70 feral dogs in two sheep rearing chiwogs of Tawa and Khemdro in Phobjikha Gewog, said Livestock Extension Agent, Phobjikha Gewog, Bhim Bahadur Subba.

The gewog sterilized and euthanized the dogs in the gewog that helped to sustain about 50% of the dog population and the authorities would carry out similar measures in future, he added.

“It is easy for us to catch and sterilize stray dogs but difficult to catch the feral dogs since they reside in the forest,” said Bhim Bahadur Subba.

Moreover, he said, the farmers prefer to practice potato cultivation since it draws potential income rather than sheep rearing.

On a small scale, farmers produce wool souvenirs like black necked cranes and foot mats but  product modification requires skilled hands on training, said Bhim Bahadur Subba.

No different Tsamdro (pastureland) for the sheep leaves dormant conservation culture, said   Phobjikha Gup, Jamtsho.

There is competition for grazing land, not only for sheep, but horses and cattle compete with each other, reducing the stock density of the pasture, said Bhim Bahadur Subba.

The government after paying compensation to the farmers owned the pastureland and interested farmers have to lease the land for their rights.

Moreover, Bhim Bahadur Subba shared that youth in the village migrating to urban areas for better opportunities and only elderly people in the villages would hinder the conservation of sheep in the near future.

Phobjikha Gup, Jamtsho said under one gewog one product initiative, the gewog would focus on producing wool souvenir as potential income for farmers and plans to allocate gewog budget for the sheep-rearing group if it goes well.

Dzongkhag Livestock Officer, Wangduephodrang Dzongkhag, Ugyen said the group would be provided with CGI sheets and wire mesh for constructing the barn and plans to start a mini wool processing plant in the gewog in one to two years.

“Unless there is strong intervention from the government, preserving the sheep would be a dream,” said Bhim Bahadur Subba.

The germplasm of the ram is preserved in the NBC to revive the species in case of extinction. 

To conserve the native sheep, Samdrup Phuentshog Lug Detshen was formed in collaboration with National Biodiversity Centre (NBC) Nu 1.5mn worth of equipment including wool-shredding machine were distributed to farmers in 2015.

Initially, there were 40 members in a group; currently there are 21.

Thukten Zangpo from Phobjikha

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