Livestock: Highlanders say they are bearing the brunt of the country’s strict conservation rules.

They claim that they have lost an increasing number of their livestock to wild predators as they live in the protected areas of the northern parts of the country.

Wild dogs, bears and snow leopards are claiming more of their livestock every year, highlanders said.

Owner of 150 yaks, Lobzang Dema from Bumdelling, Trashiyangtse said that wild dogs and Himalayan black bears have become a menace for the nomads. “Deaths from leopards have dropped now, however.”

While the yak population has remained almost constant since 2012, yak-herding households have declined annually by 1.4 percent between 2012 and 2015.

Tobgay looks after more than 100 yaks with his three children in Nubri, Paro. The Himalayan black bear, he said, is a serious problem for them. “It is a threat to even us not just the livestock.”

Such threats are partly responsible for forcing nomads to give up rearing yaks and other livestock and look for other means to earn a living.

The carnivores enjoy legal protection and retaliatory actions are prohibited. Highlanders fear that such incidences might increase in future threatening their livelihood.

The problem is worsened by the lack of adequate drinking water for the livestock in the area, Tobgay said.

Another highlander from Lungu, Laya gewog in Gasa, lost more than 10 yaks a year to wild predators, mainly bears.

“Just a few weeks ago, I lost two bjims (milching yaks) to a bear,” Namgay Dorji said. He had come to attend the Royal Highland Festival in Laya recently. “Besides disease, wild life conflict is another reason why my herd has dropped to 50 today,” he said.

A livestock extension officer of Soe, Thimphu discovered that the trend of Snow Leopard predation has been increasing in his gewog in the past three years. The cat, referred to as the ghost of the mountain, kills even mules. A healthy mule fetches highlanders at least Nu 0.15 million.

The recent survey of snow leopards shows there are at least 96 snow leopards mainly in the western parts of the country.

The yak herding culture exists in 11 dzongkhags with 993 yak herding households. As of 2015, there were 38,222 yaks.

Tshering Palden | Laya