Wildlife: If you call out zhomo in any village in Trashiyangtse, a girl or a woman will respond, as the term means sister in the local language. But in an enclosure above the Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary (BWS), a sambar deer will greet you when you call out for zhomo.

The sight of the deer running down towards the fence when someone calls reminds one of how children in the village would run towards their parents returning from town with gifts. Zhomo looks forward to visitors as that means edibles.

Zhomo seems to be comfortable living in the enclosure, but BWS officials say she must leave the it soon. Officials reason that the enclosure she currently occupies is a rescue centre for ungulates and not meant for keeping animals for long durations.

Officials said Zhomo landed there after stray dogs in Dechenphodrang village in Bumdeling attacked and injured her when she was four months old. The incident occurred in March this year.

Farmers from Gangkhardung rescued her and reared her in their homes but after she recovered, she became a menace by eating their crops. The villagers tried to release her back into the forest but the animal refused to go.

BWS’s forest officer, Norbu Wangchuk said the farmer had then asked the BWS office to take the animal. Officials went to that village and brought Zhomo to the rescue centre in May this year.

Norbu Wangchuk said that like the villagers who domesticated her, they also tried releasing her back into the forest but failed. Zhomo refused.

“The only option for us is keep her here for now and make a last try to release by taking her deep into the forest,” the forestry officer said. “If the attempt fails, we might have to take her to a zoo in the country.”

However, forest officials are worried that the animal might fall prey to poachers if abandoned in the forest. “Once the wild animal becomes attached to humans, they will always walk towards any human or human voice,” an official said.

Although the animal calmly lives in the enclosure, the forest office is finding it difficult to feed her since they don’t have budget allocated for buying feed for animals.

Norbu Wangchuk said they rely on visitors who bring potatoes and other edibles for Zhomo but the office also has to make some adjustments, as it is not enough.

He said the office had grown maize and barley along with other fodder inside the rescue centre. “But it lasts only for a few months.”

Nima Wangdi | Trashiyangtse