Three years ago, a pack of wild dogs in Trashiyangtse separated Zhogmo, a Sambar deer fawn from her mother.

While the mother was chased into the forest, Zhogmo was driven towards a settlement in Gangkhardung village in Bumdeling gewog.

The villagers reared her for sometime before handing it over to Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary (BWS).

Since then the fawn has grown close with the villagers and her rescuers at the sanctuary. The usually shy mammal can be spotted greeting her visitors and sometimes shaking hands.

Along with Zhogmo, two more Sambar deer, Tshetharmo and Blama were brought to BWS since 2015. Today the three lives at the mini-rescue shelter at the park.

Tshetharmo was rescued by a group of monks in Rigsum Goenpa while Blama was rescued in Phongmey, Trashigang, and brought to the shelter. All three are female.

Senior forestry officer with the sanctuary, Tshering Dendup, said that apart from sheltering the deer, the park has treated injured wild animals like goral, barking deer, wild boars and Sambar deer and released them back into the forest.

He said that while the rest of the animals were released after their recovery, the three could not be released into the forest, as they had grown close to humans.

“If we release them into the forest, they would become easy targets for hunters,” said Tshering Dendup. “Instead of running when they see people, they come near expecting to be fed. We couldn’t afford to release them back.”

He said that Sambar deer move toward human settlement during harvest time to feed. However, when stray and wild dogs attack them, they often land up injured.

However, limited space at the rescue shelter is becoming a concern for officials today.

The shelter was constructed as a makeshift with the growing number of injured animals, according to officials.

On December 22, another male fawn, Zhogpo, was brought to the shelter from Tarphel village. Officials said the fawn was separated from his mother and got deviated towards a village.

Zhogpo was kept with the villagers for a week before it was brought to the shelter.

“We are feeding him milk since he is not big enough to eat grass and leaves like the others,” said Tshering Dendup.

With the increasing number at the shelter, feeding the animals is another concern, according to officials.

The three deer at the shelter are fed potatoes, chickpeas, maize stems and grass.

BWS park manager, Karma Tempa, said that on an average a deer eats 10kg of potatoes a day at the shelter. “This is the minimum amount we can feed them.”

Lack of proper equipment like tranquilliser guns and trained rescuers is another concern the park faces today. Park officials treat the injured animals with support from veterinary staff.

Tshering Dendup said that without equipment like tranquilliser guns, it is difficult to approach the injured animals.  “In the process of treating the animals, there is a possibility that the animal might die due to shock.”

Karma Tempa said that under Bhutan For Life initiative, the park has in the 12th Plan proposed a budget to establish a proper shelter for the rescued animals.

Younten Tshedup | Trashiyangtse