COVER STORY: Last month, a cow in Punakha was badly injured after it was hit by sangdha, also called shamdha, a lethal poison arrow trap.

The owner managed to bring the cow to a veterinary hospital just right in time. Had it been a man in place of a cow, he would have been dead before reaching any help centre.

Almost everyone in the villages knows that using sangdha or samdha, is illegal. But people continue to use it as a means to ward off the wild animals from attacking their fields.

Veterinary doctor Sonam Jamtsho of Punakha veterinary hospital said the hospital has cured three cows hit by sangdha in Guma and Baap gewogs. In most cases people don’t reveal the usage of such arrow traps. They inform only when their animals are harmed.

Dr Sonam said that a cow was hit on the neck and brought to the hospital.  In another case, a cow was hit by sangdha at around 11:30pm last year. The arrow had gobe deep into the animal’s ribs.

He said that since people attach poison on the arrow tips, if cattle hit by sangdha does not receive proper medication and surgery on time, the chances of survival is less.

In most cases, poison used are locally produced.

Although not officially recorded, but those people who were accidently hit by the poisonous arrow trap, at least the ones that were reported to police and by media, have either died on the spot or injured badly and died later.

In 2012, a teenage girl in Dagana died on the spot after a sangdha her father set up on the edge of their field hit her on the chest. The girl had gone to fetch the cows when her father was off to receive her results. The father was later convicted to life imprisonment by the court. In the same year, a 23-year-old man from Zhemgang died after being hit by an poison arrow trap.

Last year, Tsirang district court convicted a man to six months imprisonment and asked him to pay Nu 300,000 to a victim who was hit by the arrow trap that he has set up.

The charge was levied as per the chapter 12, section 160 of the Penal Code that says that a defendant shall be guilty of the offence of reckless endangerment, if the defendant’s reckless conduct including laying of sangdha places another person in danger of death or serious bodily injury.

In December 1993, a poisoned arrow in Paro killed a man when he set a trap to ward off wild animals. The Paro police arrested three men who set the trap.

According to Guma Gup Namgay Tshering, despite cautioning people about the risk and illegality of using poisonous arrow trap, people tend to use it, especially when they were left with no option.

He said the gewog experienced about 40 to 60 wild boars attacks in the village last year. The attack on crops start from the day people starts plantation and remain so until the end of the harvest season.

In places like Talo and Phangyul, wild nominal attacks have reduced after the villages got electric fencing.

“When people lose half of their agricultural produce to wild animals, some tenßd to set arrow traps out of frustration,” said a local leader.

Yeshey, an elderly man from Baap gewog, said that people have no choice but use sangdha or tshendha, especially when wild boars come in groups and becomes difficult and risky for people to ward them off.

However, sangdha is risky and harmful. It has to be removed early in the morning and put up towards late evening, he said. The arrow traps become harmful and hurt others when people forget removing of the trap on time.

“Last year, I incidentally injured his cow. I set the arrow in my field,” he Yeshey. “Nowadays, people ask neighbours’ help to set traps, if they require help.”

The arrow trap is used not only to ward off wild animals, but also used to ward off wild animals from coming into the villages or harming people.

According to deputy forest officer in Wangdue, Tashi Dendup, using sangdha is part of poaching that is strongly prohibited.

He said that as per the section 65 of the Forest and Nature Conservation Rules 2006, a person who discovers any totally protected wildlife on his land may use non-lethal means to attempt to scare the offending animal into the forest. But the person shall not attempt to kill or poison such animal, even if it threatens, kills or lifts livestock.

As per the rule, a person whose life or safety is directly threatened by an animal or animals that are protected under rules may use lethal means. This means endangered species can be killed, poisoned, or injured in the agricultural field in the manner of fighting back. But report must be made to the nearest forest office.

By DawaGyelmo | Wangdue